Owners of Felixstowe tearoom Nutshells By-The-Sea reflect on devastating Stowupland fire and look to the future
The worst day of your life can come in many forms, but not many experience watching your livelihood burn to the ground before your very eyes.
That was Ian Booth’s living nightmare when his Stowupland tearoom Nutshells was destroyed by a fire in January last year.
Despite this devastation, Ian and his wife Jill have managed to grow their business and continue to thrive in Felixstowe as the support from loyal customers gave them the determination to press forward.
Ian, 70, said: “The fire was absolutely horrendous - the building was completely flattened and it was honestly the worst day of my life.
“After something like that you’re given a choice, you could either drop out or drive yourself forward double the strength and I guess we’ve gone for the latter.
“Having gone through that disaster, we were quite stressed out I suppose, but our customers really drove us forward.
“A customer in Stowupland coined a nice little phrase for us: the comeback is always stronger than the setback. That’s been our mantra ever since the fire, we actually have it on the wall upstairs.”
Ian and Jill met 10 years ago and wanted to start a business together as they had a mutual interest in food and hospitality.
They moved into the former Mr Allard’s Farm Shop and served cream teas, sandwiches and cafe favourites to more than 100 customers on a regular basis.
Ian described the Stowupland spot as a perfect location and said that many walkers discovered the business while hiking in the countryside during the Covid-19 lockdown.
On the morning of Saturday, January 29, 2022, disaster struck as a fire engulfed the premises seeing more than 24 fire crews extinguish the blaze.
“We had two months of shock after that,” said Ian.
“We realised pretty early on, that despite best efforts and well wishes, it was going to take time to rebuild.
“Jill and I decided to look for somewhere closer to home at least in the interim, and that’s when we launched Nutshells By-The-Sea.”
The couple have decided to focus their efforts in Felixstowe and are not planning to return to Stowupland as the former site has been reclaimed by the property owner and is now made of agricultural barns as part of an existing farm.
He added: “Our plan was always to return to Stowupland and run two shops - but I think that’s probably not going to happen now. We’ve decided really to stay where we are now.
“We’ve done so well in Felixstowe that it’s taken all our time and energy to run this tearoom.
“The support has been amazing and we’ve had so many customers from all over pop in to see us because they know us from Stowupland.
“I understand that Stowupland or Stowmarket would have a desire to have a place like ours - and I guess you would never say never if the right opportunity came up - but we’ve got our work cut out here.”