Strictly couple are new owners of The Old Station cafe in Longridge

A dance school duo who want to put Longridge on the charity fundraising map with their own Strictly dancing contest have taken another enterprising step in the town – by becoming the owners of a local cafe.

By Fiona Finch
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 3:45 pm

Elissia Whitter and Callam Thomson are now running The Old Station Cafe in the Old Station Buildings in the Ribble Valley town near Preston.

The venue is closed this week for a refurbishment and will re-open with a brand new look and extended menu.

By night the couple will be carrying on with their dancing school Precision Dance Academy, but their new day job will see them hard at work in the cafe off Berry Lane.

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Callam and Elissia, organisers of the new Strictly Longridge ballroom competition and new proprietors of The Old Station Cafe Photo: Neil Cross

Elissia, 22, explained that their new enterprise grew from a smaller ambition – she had been looking for somewhere to sell her home baked cakes and goodies. But when the saw the cafe opportunity they decided to step up their plans.

She said: “We’ve settled in well. We’re really enjoying meeting all the locals and getting to know local visitors. Me and my mum always had this dream of having a little cafe. I thought I would love a patisserie. I have a baking background. We were just looking round to see what was available.”

She continued: “It’s been non-stop. I’m doing a lot of baking. I create the recipes.”

Current favourites tastes for customers include her white chocolate and raspberry cookies, cherry bakewell flapjack and lemon scones.

Champion ballroom dancer Callam, 32, said: “We’re both really excited. We are very focused on making it a great experience for all the customers.”

The renovations include extending the size of the kitchen and installing seating booths in the smaller cafe room, where customers formerly placed their orders.

Callam said: “We’re trying to make it almost like a (railway) carriage to bring the history of the building. We’re also changing the flooring throughout and the tables and chairs in the conservatory area. It’s now going to be table service as well. It’s more a relaxed restaurant feel for all the customers. We’re going to be having a summer and winter menu, with a lot more salads for summer...Elissia is in charge of that.”

The couple also hope to be able to extend the opening hours into the evening creating a bistro with tapas dishes on offer and draught beers.

Callam worked in restaurants in Skipton when growing up and Elissia formerly worked at Bashall Barn, near Clitheroe and at an award winning bakery in Cheshire.

As for Strictly Longridge – the plan is to host the red carpet event at Longridge Civic Hall on Saturday, October 8. They hope the event will raise at least £20,000 for the Rosemere Cancer Charity, which is based at the Royal Preston Hospital. Callam, who teaches sequence, ballroom and Latin American dance, said: "It will be a one night only event. The idea is to have a black tie dinner red carpet experience. We want to go all razzle dazzle to make it a night to remember.”

Callam set up his Precision Dance Academy four years ago and opened the Longridge branch last autumn.

In the future Callam and Elissia are also hoping to arrange regular tea dances at the Civic Hall with refreshments including Elissia’s cakes.