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The fall of Kardomah cafés through the years

The fall of Kardomah cafés through the years

January 14 - 2022 Coffee Geography Magazine

Cafés in Manchester both local and big chains crop up all the time to meet the rising high coffee demand in the city. However, before the rise of Starbucks and Costa and the third wave coffee habit, there was Kardomah. Founded in Liverpool in 1844, Kardomah is credited as Britain's first coffee house chain and evolved out of a tea dealing company to become a successful coffee retail across the UK.

The best known Kardomah in Manchester was at the Market Street one, which opened in 1939 with a striking, curved staircase. The Kardomah cafes had their origins in the Kardomah Coffee Company, which was started in Liverpool in 1844. The Vey Brothers used to manage their business from Pudsey Street as their main office to import fine tea and coffee from all across the world. The first café was opened in the city in the early 1900s, by which time the business had been sold by the Veys to a bigger company. But it wasn't long before they became popular with customers and branches began to pop up in cities across the UK.

Kardomah in St Ann Square
Kardomah in Market Street

In the decades that followed, the number of cafes continued to grow, expanding outside the UK when a Parisian outpost opened. The Kardomah cafes survived through the war and enjoyed a golden era in the 1950s and 1960s, with a number of the cafes becoming known as popular meeting spots for artists and performers.

Famous artists and writers were seen at The Market Street One and it was referenced in Anthony Burgess's 1989 novel Any Old Iron. It continues to be a popular place to meet friends, colleagues and family for many decades. The Kardomah brand declined in the 1970s and 1980s followed by many branch closure across the UK, including those in Manchester. The only branch which still exists is located in Swansea, whose current Kardomah Cafe opened in 1957 following the destruction of the previous branch in the war.