A Barnstaple café owner has thanked her staff and customers after ‘unrealistic’ rent forced her to shut up shop.

Hilary Gilham closed Cafecino’s, in Barnstaple Pannier Market, after 15 years in business on February 24.

Hilary, who lives in Torrington, said she was ‘absolutely gutted’ but had been unable to continue after a decline in trade and being unable to secure a rent reduction from her landlord.

“It’s very sad because I had to make the decision quickly, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to a lot of customers,” she said.

“It has been touching how many messages I’ve had from people saying how sad they are to see Cafecino’s go.”

Hilary started the business after a career in catering, and deciding she wanted to give her own venture a go.

Over the last 15 years she has become friends with many of her customers, but since signing a new 12-year lease in 2008 she has seen trade steadily decline.

Last year she managed to negotiate a temporary 10 per cent reduction in rent, but she said this only equated to around £45 a week and with all the overheads on top, it was too much.

“In 2011 the new Tesco opened and all the out-of-town shops and malls have opened since, forcing everyone’s trade to be watered down,” she said.

“People’s spending habits have changed; they just don’t have the money to spend anymore.

“We’ve noticed a big difference in the last few years; normally it’s very busy in December but the last couple of years it wasn’t.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of traders in the town centre and they have all noticed the same thing.”

Cafecino’s closing is another hit for the High Street after a spate of business closures so far this year.

Barnstaple restaurant Fat Belly Fred’s also announced it was closing last month, and national retailer Prezzo is closing its Barnstaple store.

Maplin’s also announced it had gone into administration this month, leaving a question mark hanging over its Barnstaple shop.

Hilary said she felt the casual dining industry was ‘in crisis’ and did not know how developments like Anchorwood would affect the town centre.

“I’d just like to say a huge thank you to all of my customers and staff for their support over the last 15 years and wish them all well,” she added.