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Bury Free Press BID Column December 2023

As the year draws to a close it’s still a very busy season for many of our town centre businesses. In retail customers are heading for the sales, hopefully looking to spend Christmas money and Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Cards and hospitality businesses will be celebrating New Year’s Eve. Meanwhile the Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink is still in place at arc Shopping Centre and will be there until Wednesday, offering a great free attraction for families in the school holidays.

Earlier this month we held our annual competition to find the town centre’s best dressed festive shop window. Everyone makes such an effort with their Christmas displays and customers and visitors to the town centre select the winner by voting on the LoyalFree app. Edit Clinic, which has been based in Risbygate Street for around two years was a runaway winner this year for owner Victoria, with Gerald Boughton Formal Hire and River Island our two runners up. Congratulations to them all.

And talking of winners Bury St Edmunds was crowned England’s most dog-friendly town at a ceremony last month and runner-up for the UK title. The dog-friendly destination initiative has been a success thanks to the hard work of Jon Kay from Camp Tails Doggy Day Care with support from us at the Business Improvement District (BID) and also Bury St Edmunds Town Council.

The Town Council has partnered the BID in a number of initiatives for the benefit of the town centre in recent years, including the current ice rink attraction. Much of this has been made possible with the help and encouragement of the retiring Town Clerk, Greg Luton, and I wish him well and thank him for all he’s done to enable this productive partnership.

Although during 2023 the economy has never been far from the news headlines, Bury St Edmunds – while not without its challenges – has still been attracting new businesses. With the number in double figures for this year, we have more to look forward to in 2024 with Primark and Everyman Cinema as the eagerly awaited new tenants of the flagship building at arc Shopping Centre.

Big ‘High Street’ names are critical for the success of a town centre but just as important are the smaller independent businesses – and Bury St Edmunds and especially St Johns Street is well known for its eclectic mix. Small Business Saturday is an initiative to celebrate and promote the independents and I was pleased to accompany our MP, Jo Churchill, on a visit to Hatter Street recently so she could see first hand how important this element of the local economy is. Another small business celebrating success is Lark which has been featured in the latest Michelin Guide.

Finally, all of us at Our Bury St Edmunds wish you a happy and prosperous New Year and thank all who have supported our town centre businesses in 2023.

By Mark Cordell, CEO of Our Bury St Edmunds BID.

Where to find last minute presents and stocking fillers in Bury St Edmunds

With Christmas almost upon us there’s just time to find those last minute presents and stocking fillers in the final few shopping days ahead.  And there’s no better place to look for all those gifts for under the tree than Bury St Edmunds town centre.  Whether it’s treats for the kids’ stockings, last minute inspiration or that just-in-case present for an unexpected visitor you’ll find something for all ages and budgets.

Sweet treats make great gifts and you’ll be spoilt for choice if you visit Mr Simms in the Buttermarket.  Candy canes are perfect or choose chocolate festive figures or perhaps a sweet cone – whatever their favourite you’ll find it here.  Chocolate shop Marimba in the Buttermarket has a truffle-filled Christmas cracker, mulled white chocolate thins or delicious hot chocolate melts for a warming drink at any time.

If you love Cookie Barista’s bubble tea when visiting St Johns Street, not to mention their delicious Cookies including Triple Chocolate or Oat and Raisin, then you can now give a bubble tea gift pack to make their favourite flavours at home.  Or choose a selection of Hip Pop Kombucha cans from Primal 8 in Risbygate Street.

But when choosing a gift that’s a little stronger, in Bury St Edmunds beer fans are spoilt for choice.  Suffolk is famous for its beers and you’ll find a great selection of beers from the coast at Adnams on the Cornhill, as well as their gins, spirits and wines.  Nethergate in The Traverse has a range of different ales from a single bottle to a gift pack.  For beers from Belgium, the USA as well as closer to home in East Anglia, visit Beautiful Beers in St Johns Street.  And not forgetting the brewery that’s been a fixture in the town for more than 200 years – visit the Greene King Beer Café in Westgate Street to find their full range.  If it’s wine that you’re looking to put into a Christmas bottle gift bag then Vino Gusto in Hatter Street will find you something from the funky and exotic to the fruity and floral.

We have a wealth of lovely gift shops in the town centre so if you have time to visit all of them, you’ll be bound to come away with gorgeous unique gifts.  Buy the Light in Whiting Street is famous for its fragrances and candles but you’ll find so much more as well.  Still looking for in-SPIRE-ation – Loft & Spires on Cornhill, beneath the Corn Exchange has delightful home and style accessories and gifts.  Keyrings make a brilliant stocking filler and the Metalmorphose range at Quest in Abbeygate Street are stylish and cute at the same time. At The Parsley Pot nearby, the bunny and mouse range from Maileg make adorable gifts.  Or choose something for the little ones in your life from Bimbi’s range of unique Italian and Spanish clothing at their shop in The Traverse. 

For a more sustainable Christmas this year how about picking up a Fair Trade gift from the Cathedral Shop on Angel Hill.  Or something vintage and preloved that is more affordable and helps the planet too.  You’ll be spoilt for choice at Luna House Boutique in the Buttermarket and also at Bohemia Vintage and Lifestyle in High Baxter Street where the retro look is always in style.

Finally – if you still can’t decide what to get then the perfect present is an Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card.  There’s still time to pop into town and pick one up at Lorfords, Buy the Light, ProCook, Shuffle Board Game Café, or Vinyl Hunter and allow the lucky recipient to treat themselves at one of more than 70 different businesses in the town centre.  Perhaps some pampering at The Body Sanctury in St Johns Street or a decadent cocktail and hair and make up package at Lipstick and Locks in Abbeygate Street – both of which accept the Gift Card.

And there’s much more to find when you download the LoyalFree app, so make it your new year resolution to keep visiting www.ourburystedmunds.com and follow our social media channels for all the latest updates from Our Bury St Edmunds.  In the meantime, if the shopping is all done, the presents are already wrapped and you are ready for the big day – we wish you a Bury Merry Christmas.

‘Tis the season for Our Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Gift Cards

If you haven’t yet got Christmas ‘wrapped’ and especially if you are looking to spend your Our Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Gift Card in the run up to the big day, then feast your mince pies on this handy guide to gift cards and other great presents that will make you wish it could be Christmas every day.

There are more than 70 different places in the town centre where you can spend your Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card – so whether you’re looking for a present for yourself as you finish your gift buying for others, or you want to take a break for a coffee and a meal there’s really something for everyone to make it an ideal present this year.

What could be more festive than Buy the Light’s featured fragrance for December, which is the Classic Candle Christmas Pudding.  With 20% off during this month it makes a mouth-watering present ahead of Christmas lunch being served.  And don’t forget that as well as accepting the Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card as payment, Buy the Light, in Whiting Street, is also a stockist of the card if you want to gift it to someone this year.  Just pick one up and load it with the amount you want to give in a couple of taps on your screen – it couldn’t be easier. 

Santa’s elves always do a fantastic job getting all the toys ready for Christmas – we think that for the good children of Bury St Edmunds they probably shop at Starlings in Charter Square, where there’s new stock arriving all the time.  Look out for some new lines at great prices – your town centre gift card might go a lot further here than you’d imagine.

Red Santa and Good Elf are two of the seasonal ales that make up the Christmas Mixed 6 Beer Box at Nethergate in The Traverse.  If you’re looking for a present for a beer fan then there’s lots to choose from here with your gift card.  You could even purchase a voucher for a tour of the brewery or a gin lovers Christmas box.

And on the subject of the Christmas ‘spirit’ a Cocktail Masterclass is a present to look forward to in the New Year at The Wine Cellar in the Buttermarket.  Or use your Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card to pop in for a glass of wine or a bottle to take away.

For a more traditional gift Bury St Edmunds town centre has a wealth of unique and independent shops where you’re bound to find something for even the hardest to please – or where they can spend the gift card to pick something for themselves.  Head to Abbeygate Street and start at The Parsley Pot for adorable Jellycat penguins, snowmen and reindeer as well as many others in the range.  At Quest look out for the Sweet William range of gifts that are perfect for dog lovers everywhere.  And nearby Javelin is always popular with Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card users and just the place to find that festive fashion treat.

Just around the corner in High Baxter Street you’ll find Bohemia Vintage and Lifestyle.  This treasure trove of retro delights offers unique gifts for all ages.  And for something completely different why not use your town centre gift card to book a visit to the cinema for a festive family film.  Abbeygate Cinema in Hatter Street is showing Wonka, Elf and The Muppet Christmas Carol as well as the perennial Christmas favourite It’s a Wonderful Life.

There are gifts galore at Loft & Spires on the Cornhill.  It’s another of the fabulous independent shops that make Bury St Edmunds such a wonderful place to visit not just at Christmas but all year round. Whether you’re after a pretty piece of jewellery or something that will put a smile on someone’s face you’re bound to find it here.

And if you are after a Christmas jumper, a smart festive frock or a pair of wellies for winter head to Joules in the arc Shopping Centre where whichever member of the family you are buying for, there’s bound to be something to suit.

If you want to dress the younger members of the family to impress this Christmas then Bimbi in The Traverse will add a touch of European style to their wardrobe. And with toys and accessories too, how will you choose to treat the children or grandchildren using your Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card?  

Sweet treats always go down well at Christmas with all ages.  Mr Simms in the Buttermarket has sweet hampers, pick and mix and for those who say Bah Humbug at this time of year – a bag of the minty sweets might be just what they want. 

If you’re still not sure you’ll find just the gift a friend or family member is looking for then allowing them to choose their own treat with an Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card is the answer.  Buy the card online and have it sent to you in the post or visit one of our town centre stockists where you can load the card with cash yourself and have it ready to gift straight away.  Find the cards at: Buy the Light, ProCook, Lorfords, Vinyl Hunter and Shuffle Board Game Café.

There’s lots more to discover about the town centre at www.ourburystedmunds.com and make sure you follow our social media channels too.  And for even more offers, deals and competitions download the LoyalFree app for Bury St Edmunds.

Bury St Edmunds skating rink officially opens in town centre

A group of excited students from a Bury St Edmunds school have been the first to take to the ice at the opening of a special Christmas attraction for the town centre.
The first session of the Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink at arc Shopping Centre had been booked exclusively for the youngsters from Riverwalk School.

The town’s Mayor Diane Hind officially cut the ribbon to open the highly realistic synthetic ice rink yesterday (Thursday December 14). It has been installed by Our Bury St Edmunds which runs the Business Improvement District (BID) and arc Shopping Centre with financial support from Bury St Edmunds Town Council and other partners.

Councillor Hind, who chairs the Town Council, said: “It was an honour to perform the official opening and the children were so thrilled to be the first to skate. What a wonderful end of term treat for them. I can see this being such a popular festive attraction for the town centre.”

The Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink, which will be able to cater for up to 25 skaters per session, is now open every day (except Christmas Day) in Charter Square until Wednesday January 3. It is part of the Christmas In Bury St Edmunds experience from a partnership hosting a variety of events over the festive holiday period.

Chief Executive of Our Bury St Edmunds BID Mark Cordell said: “We wanted to provide some free family entertainment in the town centre for the Christmas holidays because this can be a costly time of year for many. I’m so impressed by how realistic the ice looks, while being much more environmentally friendly and of course in no danger of melting. It was wonderful to be able to welcome the school as the first users of this fully accessible activity.”

The synthetic ice rink, provided by Odin Events, is one of the most advanced available giving the closest possible experience to real ice but without the environmental impact and high energy use of keeping the rink frozen.

Allan Hassell who manages arc Shopping Centre and is also Vice-Chairman of Our Bury St Edmunds BID commented: “There has been a great deal of excitement around arc Shopping Centre in the last few days as preparations were made to open the skating rink and I know it’s going to be enjoyed by all ages, whether they have skated before or are complete beginners. It was lovely to see such enthusiasm for skating as the Mayor cut the ribbon.”

The Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink will also be supporting Gatehouse, which operates the town’s food bank, as its charity partner. During the first week of opening, at the request of the Town Council, a number of local schools and community groups have booked the ice rink for their exclusive use. The best way to discover when the rink is open to the public is to visit Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink – Our Bury St Edmunds

Christmas boost for Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card

Shoppers in Bury St Edmunds have been giving the town centre a welcome pre-Christmas boost by using the Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card at dozens of different shops and businesses. 

In the last month alone around £3,000 has been spent in Bury St Edmunds businesses using the Gift Card.  And in 2023 so far, more than £20,000 worth of cards have been purchased.

Latest data shows that the majority of the more than 70 businesses currently accepting the card have benefitted with a purchase in the past few weeks.  Among the most popular for purchases recently has been fashion retailer Javelin in Abbeygate Street.  Store manager Lucy Payne commented: “We have accepted the Gift Card since its early days and it really is so easy to use whether you want to spend the full amount or just use some of its value and spend the rest somewhere else.  It’s lovely to see customers treating themselves with it while looking for gifts for others at the same time.”

Sales of the card are also expected to increase in the run up to Christmas as it makes an ideal present.  With so many businesses from shops, restaurants, cinemas, salons and even solicitors accepting it as payment, the choice of where to spend it is vast.

Mike Kirkham, Our Bury St Edmunds Business Support Manager, said: “The Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card has seen thousands of pounds spent in the town centre since its launch. By choosing this above other store cards you know that the recipient will be spending it in their own community, helping local businesses at what has been a challenging time for many.  And with the current cost of living the card doesn’t have to be spent just on a ‘treat’ – you can help with everyday items by using it to buy your fruit and veg on the market or pick up a bargain in the EACH charity shop for example.

“Although it has to be spent within 12 months of purchase the cash loaded onto a card doesn’t have to be spent all once, so the recipient of an Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card could use it to treat themselves to a really nice gift or night out and then use any remainder on little treats like their favourite takeaway coffee.”

An increasing number of businesses in the town centre accept the Gift Card as payment.  It is Mastercard-based for added purchasing confidence. One of the most recent to sign up to it is Damson & Wilde in Abbeygate Street, recently taken into the ownership of Gusto Pronto which also owns The One Bull and Vino Gusto wine shop, both of which also accept the card.

The Our Bury St Edmunds Gift Card is also available to pick up directly from Buy the Light, Lorfords, ProCook, Shuffle Board Game Café and Vinyl Hunter. Collecting one in this way then loading the amount you want to give onto the card is very easy with full instructions on the envelope. This also avoids the postage charge for having the card sent to you, there’s no worry about it not arriving in time and it’s ready to give to the recipient in just a couple of taps of your screen.  

For more information or to buy the card online visit www.ourburystedmunds.com

Town centre skating rink just days from opening

Final preparations are underway as one of the most advanced synthetic ice-rinks available gets set to open at arc Shopping Centre in Bury St Edmunds. The free attraction will be welcoming skaters from 11am on Thursday December 14 – and there’s still time to book the rink for exclusive group use by a school, community group or business.

Our Bury St Edmunds, which runs the Business Improvement District (BID), has worked with a number of partners to ensure that there’s nothing to pay for all sessions at the festive attraction, including skate hire.  When not booked by a group every session will be available on a first-come first-served basis to members of the public, with no reservation necessary.

The Bury St Edmunds Family Christmas Ice Rink, which will be able to cater for up to 25 skaters per session, will be located in Charter Square until Wednesday January 3.  It will be open every day except Christmas Day usually from 11am until 5pm but later, including until 8pm on some days. The attraction is part of the Christmas In Bury St Edmunds experience from a partnership hosting a variety of events from mid-November and through December.

Chief Executive of Our Bury St Edmunds Mark Cordell said: “Christmas can be a costly time of year but this will offer a free activity in the town centre for families until the last day of the school holidays.  There will be skate aids to help beginners so everyone can look forward to taking to the rink, whether or not they have skated before.”

The synthetic ice rink, provided by Odin Events, will be one of the most advanced available giving the closest possible experience to real ice but without the environmental impact and high energy use of keeping the rink frozen. Although free of charge, donations to the rink’s charity partner Gatehouse, which runs the town’s foodbank will be gratefully received.

Schools, community groups – especially any working with those with reduced mobility – and businesses who wish to book the 12m by 8m rink for their own exclusive use may do so by emailing Mark Cordell.  Further information about the skating rink including specific daily opening times can be found at: www.ourburystedmunds.com/events/bury-st-edmunds-family-christmas-ice-rink/.

Festive Treats in Suffolk’s Foodie Capital

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Bury St Edmunds so whether you’re looking for a festive feast with family or simply an after-work beer among the baubles – the foodie capital of Suffolk is the place to be this December for all your favourite seasonal food and drink treats.  With so much to choose from ‘yule’ be guaranteed to have a wonderful Christmas time when visiting the town centre.

If you can’t get away to the real ski slopes this winter then why not enjoy the Alpine ambience of Gastrono-Me on Abbeygate Street which has transformed itself with a cosy Aspen ski lodge theme until just after New Year.  Enjoy the two or three course menu featuring the Chalet Burger or Snowplough Burger and desserts including a White Out Sundae or Snownuts.

For the final touches to your Christmas decorations take a look at the hand-made crafts for sale while enjoying a mince pie with a luxury mint hot chocolate or gingerbread latte at The Lounge and Garden in Hatter Street.   With everywhere looking so very festive at the moment make sure you check out the perfectly pink window display with adorable gingerbread houses at Lotties Coffee and Waffle House on Angel Hill. Their Christmas afternoon tea includes bagels, churros and home-made gelato.

Just a few doors away you’ll find The One Bull, where if you are looking for a Christmas meal as a group then the festive menu is now available to book – but be quick as more than 1,000 places are already confirmed. Three courses cost £33 and include vegan options such as cranberry and lentil bake.  Meanwhile its sister restaurant Damson & Wilde in Abbeygate Street is also a great place for a Christmas party – you can start your evening with a mulled wine or prosecco reception for that extra special touch before choosing a two or three course set menu of festive favourites.

Mulled wine is also on the menu, along with pecan butter tarts at Bay Tree Café in St Johns Street.  It’s the perfect place to stop for a break after visiting the eclectic range of independent shops while present hunting in this part of town.  Or carry on down the road and find Cookie Barista where a cookie dough mince pie is a sweet accompaniment to a bubble tea.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolate – right? At Marimba in the Buttermarket you can choose from Christmas pudding chocolate thins, truffle filled crackers or tablets of chocolate decorated with reindeer or Christmas trees.

For sweet treat stocking-fillers you’ll find as many candy canes as you can eat at Mr Simms sweet shop also on the Buttermarket.  Also look out for cute little chocolate snowmen, chocolate Santas and boxes of festive pick and mix.

If the traditional mince pie or Christmas pudding isn’t your thing then how about something with more of a Mediterranean flavour? Sweet treats are very much part of the traditional Christmas fayre in Greece.  You’ll find plenty of options if you visit Papaki’s Deli in the Buttermarket.

Procopios Pantry in Langton Place has a Christmas-themed pudding club in December and is also serving a festive afternoon tea menu.  It includes treats such as pigs in blankets sausage rolls and mulled berry cheesecake.  On a similar theme you’ll find an ELF-ternoon tea on selected Saturdays at Queens Bar and Grill in Churchgate Street.  Santa hat cupcakes and snowman Biscoff truffles are two of the highlights of the menu.  Meanwhile the three-course Christmas party menu is £35 per person.  And Queen’s sister business Crumbs in High Baxter Street has delicious cheesecakes, Christmas cookies and even a giant seasonal wreath cookie among the delights that await you.

If you’re looking for something to sip over the holiday season then Beautiful Beers in St Johns Street is the place to visit.  Why not take home a bottle of Moon Gazer’s Snowshoe beer or Cranes Cranberry and Lime Cider to serve with Christmas lunch?

There are more festive drinks, menu specials and warm spicy flavours to be found at Hunter Club Bar & Venue in St Andrews Street South, plus check out their events in the run up to Christmas for a great party night out.  Alternatively, there are two spaces that can be booked for your own private party.

A visit to the Angel Hotel is a real treat at Christmas time.  Throughout December a festive afternoon tea is served including turkey sandwiches and a white chocolate and cranberry tart.  There’s also a set three course and coffee Christmas menu served for lunch or dinner and on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day the restaurant is taking lunch bookings.  And why not combine a visit to the Angel with a winter walk in the beautiful Abbey Gardens just across the road.  Get away from the bustle of Christmas shopping in the town centre and enjoy the relative tranquillity of the award-winning park.  You’ll find Grounds Café there – a great place for a light lunch or a coffee and a gingerbread person or gluten-free cookie.

And remember to download the LoyalFree app, keep visiting www.ourburystedmunds.com and follow our social media channels for the latest updates for festive food and drink options in Bury St Edmunds.