Memories sought of golden age of chocolate-making in York as Terry's factory coffee bean store re-opens as a restaurant

Almost one hundred years ago, the famous Terry’s factory in York would have been infused with the aroma of coffee beans freshly arrived from Central America and rum from the Caribbean.

Built in Art Deco style in 1927, the site was a local landmark, famous for its clock tower and commanding position near the Racecourse. It employed generations of York workers before its closure in 2005.

Now, the factory is mainly flats since the old buildings were redeveloped to become The Chocolate Works. Former York publican Ben Williams has taken on Grade II-listed The Liquor Store, which he will open later this summer as an Italian restaurant and cafe-bar.

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Mr Williams, who ran The Rose and Crown in his home village of Sutton-on-the-Forest until 2012, is keenly aware of his premises’ history, and is appealing to former Terry’s staff to contact him with memories and old photographs that will eventually adorn the restaurant’s walls.

The Liquor Store was built near the Clock TowerThe Liquor Store was built near the Clock Tower
The Liquor Store was built near the Clock Tower

Ironically, Mr Williams’ family connections to the confectionary industry are with local rival Rowntrees, where his father was a product development director who invented the blue Smartie for Nestle. Yet he is determined to incorporate features such as the original stone staircase and tiling into his new venture.

Aware of the 15-minute walk into the city centre, Mr Williams is keen to be ‘not another tourist restaurant’ and will focus on the local community and racegoers. He is experienced in hospitality, having run a pub in London before returning north.

He took on the lease by chance, as the developers had originally marketed The Liquor Store as a single unit and had interest from Andrew Pern, owner of Michelin-starred gastropub The Star Inn at Harome and Star Inn the City. However, the deal fell through and instead the building was split into three business units, two of which are occupied by a dental surgery and an architecture firm. The Pern link remains, as the head chef previously worked at the Star businesses in Harome, York and Whitby.

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"We’re aiming for smart-casual; it’s not going to be super high-brow, but accessible quality. I want it to be part of the community, and hold wine dinners and ‘meet the producer’ nights.

The listed original tiles can be seen during renovation workThe listed original tiles can be seen during renovation work
The listed original tiles can be seen during renovation work

"The Liquor Store was where the coffee beans from America would be stored, before being milled for chocolate, and rum to make rum truffles. There is still the original tiling, cream with a dark red stripe. The old staircase doesn’t go anywhere now, but it is listed and we will try and use it for something like wine storage.”

Mr Williams has already spoken to local care homes in the hope of finding employees who worked for Terry’s in its post-war period – rationing affected chocolate production until the mid-1950s, and the Chocolate Orange became associated with the brand after the Chocolate Apple was discontinued because of the shortages.

"We are helping to bring this building back to life, and back in the day it was one of York’s premier employers. It’s lost its soul a bit now it’s mostly housing, and we want to bring that back. We want to include the people who made it what it was.

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"There has been a lot of interest so far, and the care homes seem full of ex-Terry’s staff. The photos available in local archives are often quite generic, and focus on production lines, so we want that more personal touch.”

Anyone who wishes to submit photographs or stories of their or a relative’s time at Terry’s should email Mr Williams on [email protected].