A new independent bakery has opened in the heart of Rochdale town centre as part of the council's business rates sale.
Food lovers have snapped up an early Christmas present, with the Laughing Loaf opening in the Walk, selling traditional Lancashire treats like Eccles cakes, Manchester tart and hotpot.
And owners Rachel Goodyear and Patrick Jarrett, will be saving a lot of dough, having taken advantage of the council scheme, which offers new independent businesses 80 per cent off their rates in the first year of trading, followed by a 50% discount in year 2 and a 30% off in the third year.
"Without the council's rates sale, we wouldn't have been an able to open this shop"
The sale has already brought scores of new businesses into the town centre, including restaurant CockaDoodleMoo and shoe repair and key cutting business Shoemaster. It was extended to Middleton and Heywood earlier this year.
Rachael and Patrick have been selling their goods, which they source from independent bakeries across Lancashire, on Rochdale Market for two years and have built up a loyal following. They also run a regular stall on Middleton Market on Tuesdays, but the council's rates sale gave them the vital additional ingredient they needed to make the move from market stall to shop. And, with some support from Rochdale Town Centre Management, they have now moved in and set up shop, just in time for the festive season.
Rachel said: "Without the council's rates sale, we wouldn't have been an able to open this shop, because the costs of setting up in a unit for the first time are so high. It was a great opportunity for us.
"Independent businesses are a really important part of the high street"
"We've only been here a few days and we've been really busy. We've got a full list of orders for mince pies and fresh bread, which people want for Christmas, and we're already looking to use all the space we have here to start selling fresh sandwiches, hot and cold lunch and breakfast options and Jamaican delicacies in the new year.
"Independent businesses are a really important part of the high street and people are responding well to us. None of our food is mass produced, and some of our customers just pop in for a chat and some company, which you wouldn't necessarily be able to do in larger stores.
"This initiative turns our empty units into thriving businesses"
Council leader, Councillor Richard Farnell, said: "While our £250m regeneration programme will bring the well-known names we desperately need into Rochdale, independent businesses are an equally important part of any quality high street.
"But the huge cost of setting up in a unit for the first time means that having a proper high base is often beyond their reach for many of these small businesses. That's why we set up this initiative, to give them the push they needed to invest in Rochdale and turn our empty units into thriving businesses."
Find out more about financial support for new businesses.