‘Homeless cafe’ owner’s perfect Xmas present

A FAMILY whose caf� was left homeless for nearly two years when Sidmouth Indoor Shopping Centre shut say being back in business is the perfect Christmas present.

Soula Sherlock, 43, and dad Michael Sambati, 71, are hoping to set up shop at 106 High Street in mid January - almost two years to the day after their Central Market Caf� closed.

Soula said a district council move to hand her change of use planning permission for the premises, in the face of objections, was “a life changing decision”.

“It will be like having a family home back,” she told the Herald this week.

“We thought we would never get back. I’d come close to giving up hope so many times, I didn’t really think it would all come together. Now, we’re looking forward to seeing our customers again.”

Soula’s family have been in the catering trade in Sidmouth for 40 years, and she ran the Central Market Caf� with cousin, Rachel Beach-Barden.

Soula was “devastated” when Sidmouth Indoor Shopping Centre shut in early 2010.

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She described the planning process and last Tuesday’s district council development management committee meeting as “terrifying”.

Some traders objected to Sidmouth losing a retail outlet and gaining a ‘28th’ caf�, but Soula’s application also garnered support from well-wishers.

“It’s been worth all the stress,” she said. “This means so much. We will be part of the community again. It has felt like being homeless the last couple of years.

“The support has been overwhelming and I feel so lucky. We didn’t have the luxury of being able to look around for another six months or a year.

“It’s an enormous achievement for us to get that approval – a life changing decision.

“Dad kept all the equipment from our old caf� incase something came up.

“It’s getting him back doing what he loves.

“This is the perfect Christmas present. My main motivation has been our customers asking if we’d found anywhere yet, two years on.”

Soula and Michael will be helped by close family friend Avril Fowler.

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