A YEAR ago today, Dane Smith’s energy was focused on his successful career in the the North West Ambulance Service - but now he runs Urmston’s hottest new coffee shop.

Dane co-founded Riverbank Coffee last June, along with his wife Jennifer, and their friends Brian and Jackie Kilcourse.

Located on Brian and Jackie’s land on Newcroft Farm, the coffee shop can only be reached by walking along the banks of the River Mersey.

Not that this has put anyone off. Since it launched on June 13, Riverbank Coffee has only closed its shutters twice - for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Far from the noise of the traffic and the daily stresses of lockdown life, the little coffee shop attracts families, cyclists, dog-walkers and couples, all seeking fresh air and takeaway flat whites.

“People tell us this is their escape,” says Dane, 29. “It’s a little bit of normality I think.” He adds: “We want to create that bit of escapism of sitting with a coffee by the river and not worrying about anything.”

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But takeaway coffee isn’t the only thing on the customers’ minds: Riverbank Coffee also serves up some seriously popular food. In addition to homemade chocolate brownies, lemon drizzle cakes and pies, its sausage rolls are fast becoming the stuff of local legend.

“We just can’t make enough of them!” says Dane. “It’s crazy, the amount of sausage rolls we are going through.”

The pies and sausage rolls are made by Jackie’s son-in-law Andrew, a Michelin-starred chef whose restaurant is currently closed.

And the hot food has become so popular that the business has had to buy additional fridge space to stock it all.

By December, Riverbank Coffee was proving to be such a hit with the locals that Dane gave up his job with the ambulance service in order to work fulltime at the cafe. The company also employs 11 part-time staff.

“It’s been hard work but worth it,” says Dane.

For much of its time in business, Riverbank Coffee has been a takeaway operation only - but the owners have exciting plans for the summer, Covid-19 restrictions permitting. These include a wood-fired pizza oven, an ice-cream kiosk and, potentially, acoustic performances.

“We want it to be about the experience,” says Dane.

“The best thing has been getting to know people - getting to know our regulars, getting to know what they do for work, getting to know their kids.

“It’s very family oriented, it’s really friendly.”

For more information, see www.facebook.com/Riverbankcoffee