Bury St Edmunds business leaders hope these new shops can re-ignite town centre after lockdown
Shoppers and business leaders are hopeful new openings in Bury St Edmunds can spark an economic comeback.
Covid-19 has led to a number of retailers closing in the town, but three new businesses opening their doors in the past fortnight suggests confidence is returning.
Molly Carpets, Phone Shop, and Buttermarket: The Art of Men’s Grooming are now all welcoming customers.
And there are set to be further arrivals, with cheesemonger The Cheese Hole Co confirming it will move into the former ANNA shop in Hatter Street. There is also Loyal Wolf Barbershop moving into the former Cash Converters in St Andrew’s Street North, and Guildhall Studios set to run from above Guat’s Up – which closed in July. JD Sports, meanwhile, has confirmed it will move into the former HMV space in the arc shopping centre, opening on November 21.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds, which runs the town’s business improvement district, feels further premises could be filled up on the back of renewed confidence.
He said: “Undoubtedly the past six months have been horrific for our town centre businesses. But on the whole they have all responded so positively to the challenges.
“The town, post lockdown, has performed really well. Last week three new businesses opened and I am aware of five currently empty premises being close to securing new tenants.
“Despite the impact of Covid-19, Bury continues to be seen as a great place to have a business and long may that continue.”
Howard Jones opened Molly Carpets last week, having seen a vacant unit next to the arc shopping centre for affordable rent and thought he would ‘go for it’.
“I have worked in the carpet trade before and wanted to do something close to the town centre,” said Mr Jones, who added that the shop was due to open before now, but had been put back due to building work.
“I have chosen to sell carpet, vinyl and LVT. Flooring has been one of the success stories of Covid, many places were selling out of foam underlay. For this line of work it is a good time.”
“So far it has been very busy, I have not even advertised,” said Mr Jones, who said the shop was named after Molly, a nickname for his mother.
He added: “I have a five year plan to build up the business and retire.”
For Izzy Yildrin, the Buttermarket shop is the fourth Turkish barber shop he has opened in Bury. He said he’d wanted the shop to open in March, but the virus had forced him to wait until the final week of September.
“I am looking at providing an experience that is more VIP,” he said. “The price is a little higher than my other shops, but we will provide an extra hot wash for free. I wanted to offer drinks but I could not under the government rules. It has been a harder time for barbers, as people are still afraid of the virus and we are having far fewer customers.”
Thurston barber Sam Blowers, who previously worked in Carters, had also wanted to open Loyal Wolf Barbershop before lockdown, but is now set to open in the coming weeks.
Landlord Sam Middleton said: “I have owned the building for six years and wanted to do something with it. Sam is a well-known barber in town and we wanted to do something together and renovate the building, which has not been used for almost a year. Sam is set to take on the project with one other member of staff.”
Bury Free Press readers were excited to learn of the cheesemonger, reacting positively on Facebook earlier in the week. Agents Barker Storey Matthews said: “The Cheese Hole Co Ltd will be a welcome addition to the town, which continues to be an attractive prospect for business.”
JD Sport is currently based in Buttermarket, but is next month set to move across town to to the arc. Shopping centre manager Steve Bunce said: “This enhanced investment is proof of the strength of the retail offer in Bury St Edmunds, and is a further reward to our customers for the loyalty that they continue to show, both to arc as well as the town centre as a whole. We look forward to the opening of the new store in November.“
A West Suffolk Council report issued in late August, the latest data available, said just under eight per cent of shop fronts in Bury St Edmunds were unoccupied. With these latest additions, it is likely the figure will drop.
Mr Cordell said with the former Carphone Warehouse shop also on the market, old Gastrono-Me premises being refurbished, and a cafe possibly moving into the former Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing unit in St John’s Street, there were reasons for optimism.
He added: “We need to reassure new businesses and the public that Bury is a safe place to visit and encourage consumers to support their town centre. If they do, I am confident that more new businesses will be opening in Bury over the next 12 months
“The town centre will no doubt look different to what it did in its most recent peak period around 2016 but successful town centres are those that can adapt to the ever-changing consumer demands of the post lockdown world we are living in.”