Family’s tribute to South Shields' Bar Franchi owner Michael Franchi who ‘introduced espresso to the North East'

The family of a well-known businessman and founder of the former Bar Franchi in South Shields have paid tribute following his death.

By Sarah Sinclair
Sunday, 27th October 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Sunday, 27th October 2019, 4:14 pm
Michael Franchi has passed away at the age of 90.
Michael Franchi has passed away at the age of 90.

Michael Franchi, who owned the cafe in Market Place for 40 years, passed away on October 19 at the age of 90.

The grandfather-of-six was born in South Shields in 1929 and had lived in South Tyneside his whole life, most latterly in Westoe Village where he moved in 1975.

Michael spent his early days in Hebburn where his parents ran a fish and chip shop on Hedgley Road and would later go on to open his own at Low Simonside in the late 50s.

Michael Franchi at his 90th birthday with daughters (left-right) Lucia and Carla and son Mark.

However, it was Bar Franchi, which he set up in 1965, where he made his name - and famously claimed to be the first cafe in the North East to have an espresso machine.

Michael ran the coffee shop and grill bar for four decades until his retirement in 2004 at the age of 75.

His son and daughter Mark and Carla Franchi can remember being roped in to help out from a young age.

“It was definitely a family business,” said Carla.

Michael Franchi (left) serves coffee at the opening of Bar Franchi at Wouldhave House Market Place, Novemner 1966.

“He always liked to claim that he introduced espresso to the North East.”

In a once-bustling Market Place, Bar Franchi was a popular meeting place for locals known for its good coffee, fish and chips and Italian dishes.

However, in his retirement Michael embraced his new role as the customer and would often be seen dining out in cafes and restaurants in South Shields - particularly at his favourite, Coleman’s.

“He was a true Italian, he loved his food,” said Carla.

The opening day of Bar Franchi at Wouldhave House, Market Place, November 1966.

“A lot of people know him from the bar, he was a larger than life figure and a really lovely man. He was very sociable and was often out with friends.”

In March 2019, Michael celebrated his 90th birthday with 45 friends and family members.

“He always called the area where he lived the ‘South Tyneside Riviera’,” added Mark.

“He never wanted to move from here, he loved South Shields.”

Bar Franchi's 25th anniversary in the Shields Gazette, 1991.

The funeral mass will take place on Thursday, October 31 at St. Bede's RC Church, South Shields at 12pm followed by a committal at South Shields Crematorium.

(Left-right) Bert Franchi (Michael’s younger brother), Bill Bell, and Michael in Hebburn 1950.