A Teignmouth café owner who has raised over half a million pounds for charity is to retire in October.

Melissa Middleton BEM has run the Whistlestop Café at Teignmouth railway station since 2002. However, following the death of her beloved husband Bill 18 months ago and with ongoing health issues, she is finally taking the advice of her doctors and hanging up her apron strings.

‘My doctors have been asking me to give it up for the last 12 years, it is just pure stubbornness and my love for each and every one of the friends I’ve made that has kept me going,’ Melissa said. ‘I’ve made so many memories and met so many lovely people,’ she added.

Under Melissa’s management, the Whistlestop Café has helped many people over the years. The popular pay-it-forward programme encourages customers to put money for a drink or a meal into the café’s kindness book for someone less fortunate. ‘The café is a warm and welcoming place for anyone to meet other people and make memories,’ Melissa explained.

At Christmas, the café collects toys and food for hampers which are distributed through the Homeless in Teignbridge Support (HITS) food bank. The café also runs regular raffles to raise money for charity.

On Tuesday evenings the Whistlestop Café hosts a biker night and Melissa has praised the bikers for the amount they have achieved with their fundraising efforts. ‘I love these nights,’ she added, ‘they bring me warmth and friendliness.’

Outside the café, a rack of donated coats is available for anyone who needs a warm or waterproof layer.

Melissa and her late husband also founded the Devon Equine Crisis Support charity. One of her biggest worries about retiring is the impact it will have on the equine charity as much of its funding comes from collections at the café.

Melissa’s charitable work, which also includes supporting those in need in Kenya as well as locally in Teignmouth, earned her a British Empire Medal (BEM) in 2017.

It is not yet clear who will take on the café, which is leased through GWR.