Lesley and Martin Croxford, both in their 70s, opened the market in 1982 but said they felt now was the right time to retire. The building was derelict when the couple took it on but it has turned into a thriving marketplace.
Mrs. Croxford said the market was “part of the town” and they “feel sad it’s going”.
Speaking after trading ended on Saturday, its last day, Mrs. Croxford said: “I have mixed emotions, it’s a sad day, the end of a 40-year era but there will be less stress.
“I’m pleased that the café is moving to another part of the dairy that my grandparents owned so it feels like it’s not completely over… that would be awful.”
The market used to be a dairy that pasteurized and packaged milk, owned by Mrs Croxford’s grandparents, but after her father’s death in 1972 the building was derelict until the conversion to a market a decade later.
Mrs. Croxford said: “There were three markets in Clacton when we started and they just laughed at us because we were so small. But in actual fact, we’re the one that’s left.”
When they started renovating the building there was “water pouring through it”.
The couple owed £20,000 due to renovations in 1983, “a big deal at the time”, said Mrs. Croxford, meaning “it had to work”.
Mrs. Croxford, 71, said: “We really didn’t know how to run a market, we knew nothing about it.
“I’d just come out of art school and Martin was a musician… we needed to earn a living we had no other means really.
“We were wondering what on earth to do and it just sort of came to us.”
Mr. Croxford said it was “a big gamble” but one that has paid off.
Over the last 40 years, the couple has never enforced long leases and said they were proud to have been a stepping stone for lots of traders.
Mrs. Croxford said: “They’ve started with us and got the confidence and the know-how and gone on and done other things. We’ve fed some of the shops in Clacton with traders. “
Over the years they’ve had “generations of businesses”.
Mrs. Croxford said: “We do feel sad it’s going, we’ve built a community there. People love to come to the café, it’s part of the town.
“We started it together and want to draw it to a close together. We’ve had our ups and downs with things and worries. It’s been nice for the two of us to run it together but we’re getting to an age,” she said.
Mr. Croxford added: “I’m 75 now and think perhaps going on until 85 might be pushing it.”