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Couple behind reinvention of Altrincham Market awarded MBEs in New Year's Honours list

Nick Johnson and Jenny Thompson have been awarded MBEs for services to business and to the food sector.

Jenny Thompson and Nick Johnson

The couple whose reinvention of Altrincham Market kickstarted the revival of Altrincham town centre have been recognised in the New Year's Honours list.

Nick Johnson and Jenny Thompson have been awarded MBEs for services to business and to the food sector.

They said: “It’s been one of the most exciting and rewarding periods in our lives and a delight to spend so much time amongst so many talented people. For that to be recognised by an honour each, is a privilege.”

Bolton-born Johnson has been involved in regeneration for 35 years, first with his own company when he was heavily involved in the aftermath of the Manchester bomb and then as a director of Urban Splash, the urban regeneration company. While there he worked with Foster and Partners on the Budenberg HAUS Projekte development in Broadheath.

He was also chairman of Marketing Manchester for seven years, and with partner Thompson established their reputation in the food sector as the owners of Atlas Bar in the city centre.

After Johnson left Urban Splash in 2012, he and Thompson turned their attention to their home town and agreed a deal with Trafford Council - who had run Altrincham Market for decades - to take over the operation of the market in exchange for a six-figure investment.

Initially relaunching the covered market in September 2013, they spent £550,000 of Trafford Council money to expand and rejuvenate the historic Market House - a building that dated back to 1879 - and reopened it a year later.

At the time, he told Altrincham Today that the ambition was to turn Altrincham into "the modern market town".

Speaking in 2014, he said: “The ambition is to be an integral part of the local community and serve those people who have been incredibly loyal to us since we started in October, but at the same time we want to bring a new audience into Altrincham to assist it in its ambition to reinvent itself as a modern market town.

"I’ve always said that it’s an original market town but what it now needs to be is not only a modern market town but the modern market town, and if you’re going to be the modern market town you need at your heart a modern market.

Nick Johnson photographed by Altrincham Today just before the relaunch of Market House in 2014

“That’s not to undermine the traditional market because it still has a role, but we need to broaden its appeal and make it a richer experience by looking at what happens in other modern markets."

Packed with some of the best Northern food traders, the reinvented Altrincham Market quickly took off and in 2015 was named Best Market by the influential Observer Food Monthly supplement.

Johnson and Thompson formed an inspirational partnership leading the market.

Johnson's hope that a rejuvenated market would be a “catalyst” for change in Altrincham has been realised, with Altrincham town centre transformed over the past decade.

Three years ago it was named the Best Place to Live in the UK by the Sunday Times and was also named England's Best High Street.

Johnson and Thompson have helped to pioneer the food hall concept and have extended it to Mackie Mayor in Manchester and the Picturedome in Macclesfield. They've also opened a pub, the Nag’s Head near Nantwich, which was recently confirmed to have made the Good Food Guide just a year after it was refurbished and reopened.