Shoppers were returning to Larne market last Wednesday after a 12-month absence.
The Station Road facility re-opened at 9.00 am to welcome scores of faithful shoppers who were delighted to see the outlet back in business.
The market had been closed to facilitate a major renovation £1.3 million project. This was largely funded by Larne Borough Council with grant aid of £150,000 from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency through its Historic Buildings Grant.
The grade B listed market yard, auction house and storage sheds date back to Victorian times.
Ardglass fishmonger David McNabb’s family has been trading at Larne market for 35 years.
He said he was pleased to see the return of some familiar faces and “more new ones”.
Ian Naylor, a regular visitor to the market, said he had witnessed the “whole place going downhill” before the restoration and suggested that it had dwindled to less than three stalls at a time.
“I really hope this work brings it back,” he added.
Mr. Naylor went on to say that he comes to buy fresh local vegetables but is particularly keen to buy fish especially when fresh herring is available.
Christine Mayberry said she would like to see more stall-holders.
“The market looks lovely. What a great improvement. The cafe is lovely with its home-baked goods.”
Enjoying the fare in the cafe was Jeanie Sowerby enjoying a visit to her home town from Eastbourne.
She said that she was so delighted by the new-look market that she planned to pass on her compliments to the Borough Council.
“I am going to write to the Council and thank them for what they have done. It is really truly wonderful. I am very impressed. They have done a great job. They have given the market what it needed. It looks clean and fresh.”
She urged local people to support the facility adding that this is needed to keep the gates open.
Her friend Myra Barr also paid tribute to the local authority for the upgrade.
“Everything is beautiful. It is really good. They deserve credit.”
Barbara Stirling, of Barbara’s Cake and Bake, welcomed the opportunity to open a cafe in the new enclosed area and reported a brisk trade.
Customer David Craig said that he has shopped at the market for years to buy fresh produce such as meat and eggs.
Butcher Tom McMaster has had a pitch at the market since November.
“The only thing I have against it is the parking. It is very nice and they have done a great job.”
He went on to say that the first day had been “very busy”.
Plant seller Robert Wallace said he preferred his temporary pitch at the Co-Op carpark.
Mr. Wallace criticised what he believes is a lack of parking for customers although there is some availability for disabled shoppers.
“But the market is nicely done up. There should be plenty of room for stalls.”
Mr. Wallace went on to say that his family has been stall-holders at Larne market for more than 60 years running a greengrocery business growing their own fruit and vegetables.
“We sold two-and-a-half van loads here on a Wednesday. I used to go home at lunchtime to re-stock. You could not do it in six months nowadays.”