80 on the clock
22 March 2018
From being used to make WW2 aircraft parts, to a hangout for 1950s' rockers, and now a global company, the Ace Cafe has certainly had a colourful history.
It's 80 years since the world famous Ace Cafe first opened. Popularly known as 'The Ace', the Stonebridge café has secured a unique spot in the motorcycle world.
"There are people who love their music and motors all over the world. But just like there's only one Wembley, The Ace is where those with that interest can call home," says Mark Wilmore, managing director of The Ace.
Built in 1938 to capitalise on the development of the new North Circular, the Ace Cafe was initially off to a bumpy ride. The new café was completely flattened by a Second World War air raid. Temporary buildings were put up and it was used to manufacture aircraft components - they even won awards for the quality of their products.
Once rebuilt at the end of the war, the café's popularity boomed with the advent of rock 'n' roll with bands such as The Who becoming frequent customers. Mark explains: "In the heyday of the 50s, kids would gravitate toward The Ace because it was on a long stretch of road, it had a jukebox, it was open 24 hours a day and was bright neon. It was the modern world."
Over the years, with cars becoming increasingly common, The Ace's appeal faded. It closed in 1969, seemingly for good. So, what inspired Mark to start it up again many years later?
"I'm not old enough to have come here but I'm old enough to remember it. I started to ride a motorcycle a few years after the place had shut. As the years went by, our history was disappearing and here was this place close to where I lived that was now selling tyres."
Realising that in 1994 would be the 25th anniversary of Ace Cafe's closure, Mark decided to organise a reunion: "That event was the evidence that the place should be reopened, because 12,000 people turned up to a tyre place! From that moment on, I knew I had to get it opened again."
Since its 2001 reopening, the café has gone from strength to strength, attracting thousands of fans to its regular events and reunions. And, it's also expanded internationally, with sister Ace Cafes in venues from Barcelona to Beijing.
The Ace's 80th anniversary will see them expand their offering even more, with the launch of a new clothing line, merchandise and a special double CD celebrating bikes and cars, as well as their own internet radio station playing rock 'n' roll and a host of other genres.
Keep up to date with Ace Cafe's anniversary plans at www.london.acecafe.com.