Last of the Glasscock family of bakers bows out as owner of Café of the Angels in Sawbridgeworth decides to hand over
Baking is in café owner Austin James's blood. His legendary cakes have been a tasty attraction for regulars in Sawbridgeworth town centre since the turn of the millennium.
But after 21 years running Café of the Angels, he has decided to call it a day and let his friend Mike Mason take the reins.
Austin is a descendant of the Glasscock family, who opened their first bakery, near Hockerill crossroads in Bishop’s Stortford, in 1849.
It was a fairly humble business until Austin’s father John took over. “It wasn’t until my father took over in the ‘50s when he started to get more ideas,” said Austin.
Sadly, John died in his 40s, leaving Austin and his brother Guy to take over. They were in their 20s, and although they were inexperienced, they had grand plans.
“We expanded to six shops and ran it as a bakery until 1999,” said Austin. At that stage Guy decided to call it a day and so Austin opened Café of the Angels in Bell Street.
The café has been a magnet for cake lovers, but also a popular hang-out for locals.
As Austin posted on its Facebook page: “This café has been the hub of Sawbridgeworth meeting and greeting, conversation and laughter for many years and soon it begins again.”
Mike is currently running his Pizza Squisita operation from the café in the evenings. He plans to continue the great work Austin has been doing, but launching the café into a new era.
“This isn’t just a café. It is part of the history of Sawbridgeworth as well as being the last remaining shop from a family business that truly does go back generations,” said Mike.
“It serves as a community hub, a place where you can catch up with friends, catch up with your own thoughts or just come in and have a natter with one of us. Conversation is always an option!”
He added: “To be entrusted with the business and its wonderful customers really is an absolute privilege.”
Austin will be looking forward to taking a break, but aims to concentrate on counselling, his singing and his two daughters and three grandchildren.
Both daughters are in the entertainment industry: Sophie Austin, who is engaged to former Coronation Street actor and The X Factor winner Shayne Ward, is an actress who played Lindsey Butterfield in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks while Esther is a singer.
Austin is sad to be leaving Bell Street and says he will miss customers and getting a daily insight into their lives. But he feels there is positive energy coming from younger, new business people who are not fazed by the issues caused by the coronavirus lockdown.
“They're ready to hit the ground running,” he said. “You get this vibe – when you're younger you don’t have the same fear.
“I think they're going to have to adapt, but small businesses have that ability.”
Café of the Angels will close on July 18 and be shut for a few weeks while Mike prepares it for the new era with the Pizza Squisita branding.