Businesses show 'vote of confidence' in Bury St Edmunds as empty units fill up
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Empty units in Bury St Edmunds are filling up as the town prepares to bounce back - and its historic high street will soon be fully let.
The market town has suffered closures like many others during a challenging 12 months brought on by coronavirus, but new businesses are also taking the plunge and opening up.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Bury Business Improvement District (BID) Our Bury St Edmunds, said he was "absolutely delighted" that by the end of April all the vacant units in Abbeygate Street would be occupied and other empty shops across the town are also filling with new tenants.
He said: "This is a tremendous vote of confidence for our town centre as many of these are new businesses testing the products in our town."
"The current vacancy rate for the town centre is just under 10% but clearly by mid May, when hospitality businesses can fully reopen, this figure will be considerably lower.
"It’s been a very difficult past 12 months but all this positive changes are very exciting for our town centre businesses and our local community."
We spoke to three businesses - a coffee shop, chocolate company and art gallery - about why they have chosen to open in Bury.
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Midgar coffee shop
Efe Develi has moved from London to open Midgar coffee shop in St John's Street.
He had initially been looking at Cambridge, but was attracted to Bury because it was more affordable and still had a city feel.
He added: "It's the best of both worlds. And St John's Street has got such a nice character. It's full of independent shops."
Mr Develi had been running an artisan café in Hackney with his brother before the move and will be bringing elements of that to Midgar; a vintage feel, nice atmosphere and single origin coffee.
He had been working as a conveyancing searcher before switching to work in hospitality.
He said: "I love coffee so much and talking to people. I wanted to do something I enjoy. It's not the financial side so much."
Midgar - which takes its name from a world in a Final Fantasy game - is due to open mid April for takeaway and will initially employ three staff.
It is in the former Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing boutique, which is a grade-II listed building.
Marimba chocolate shop
Opening a shop in Bury has always been an ambition of family-run chocolatiers Marimba.
They have had a specialist chocolate café in Sudbury for 14 years and now make chocolate in Bury, on Northern Way.
Marimba will open its new chocolate shop with takeaway hot chocolates at the former Artico jewellers in the Buttermarket around April 24, generating five jobs there.
Brad Wright, who was involved in launching Marimba with his parents David and Jackie, said they had been "in love" with Bury for such a long time and were just waiting patiently for the right unit to come available.
"It's very difficult to find shops in Bury St Edmunds. They don't come up very often - certainly ones that lend themselves to what we want to do," he said.
Marimba has also had a slot at the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre for many years, which Mr Wright said "cemented in our minds" bringing a shop to the town.
He added: "I think we are going to have a really good summer. I think people have been stuck at home for a long time and everybody has been buying things online.
"Our online shop has been really busy over lockdown."
Marimba makes single origin chocolate with beans from Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, and uses flakes of chocolate - rather than powder - in its drinks.
Its wholesale business serves nearly 600 cafes up and down the country with hot chocolate, as well as restaurants and hotels.
Art in East Anglia gallery
A new art gallery is also coming to Bury in mid/late April.
Art in East Anglia in Langton Place is a venture by local resident Michele Bailey and her business partner Chris Witham.
It will showcase the work of artists from Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and was born out of an online community and website dedicated to homegrown talent.
Mrs Bailey said, apart from the fact they love Bury, they chose the town for their gallery as it had become a real destination.
She said: "Having won all these polls for the best place to live, I think people are moving here to live and we will get so many visitors when we can.
"We have the Abbey Gardens and the history of the town and I do still think there's a lovely community feel."
She added: "I felt it was the perfect spot for our first gallery."
The gallery - at the former Lady Amarisa prom and evening dress shop - aims to make it as easy as possible for artists to promote themselves and sell their work by offering marketing support such as copywriting and social media.
For more information visit the website.