Bury St Edmunds cafe owner steers course towards his retirement

Richard Bird
Richard Bird
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A former merchant navy ship’s mate, who has owned a cafe in Bury St Edmunds for almost three decades, has set his sights on retirement.

Richard Bird, owner of Street Level Cafe in Abbeygate Street, expects to hand over the lease – which he and wife Jacqueline renewed for 15 years in 2007 – in around four to six weeks’ time.

“There’s a buyer and it’s in the hands of the solicitors at the moment,” said the 68-year-old, whose plans to retire in 2010 were delayed by the economic crisis.

“We’ve gone through boom and bust three times and have seen a lot of changes,” said Richard, who opened the cafe in 1986 after getting tired of long voyages at sea, away from his wife and son.

“We came into it absolutely cold – we had never been in business before,” said Richard, who found ‘getting to grips with doing the accounts’ his biggest challenge.

Of his retirement, he said: “I’m looking forward to it. I’ll miss the interaction we have with the staff, going out the front door right into the middle of town and I’ll miss the customers. What I won’t miss is working seven days a week, continuous.”

He added: “I would love to go to New Zealand – all the time I was at sea, it was the one country I always wanted to go to –and I’d love my wife to see the Northern Lights.”

The cafe’s 12 current employees will be transferred along with the lease.

“It will be interesting to see what the new people are going to do,” said Richard.