From Palmer’s to Springfield Garage; from Sunrise to Baxter Court Sandwiches. Walk in any local shop and you’ll be greeted with a sincere smile making you feel appreciated.
Granted, one customer’s warm welcome is another’s toe-curling hard-sell. But our home-grown servers, clerks and shop attendants know that once customers are greeted, either they’d like food (the faster the better), individual attention, or else they’d like some personal space. When it comes to such professionalism, I call this superior local customer service the ‘Bury Way’.
Consider ‘Really Rather Good Coffee House’, an independent business owned by George and Annette Stanford overlooking Angel Hill’s town square, offering scrummy food and drinks. A smashing location, most Bury natives take our historic quadrangle for granted, including its 12th century walls, Gothic-style Cathedral, magnificent abbey gate, graceful Georgian townhouses, venerable Norman bell tower and the handsome 18th-century Athenaeum.
Are you kidding? All this? In a Suffolk market town? Frankly, for beauty and antiquity, Angel Hill easily compares to the best Britain has to offer. Not surprisingly, Bury lures countless visitors away from overrated, impossible-to-park-in, crowded Cambridge, a mere 30 miles further along the A14. And when customers come, the Stanfords are well placed to welcome tourists and locals alike, offering a great setting to sit and enjoy the ambiance.
George projects a certain ‘I’m-in-charge-here’ manner which 30-plus years serving in the Army gives one. Despite being a senior officer in the reserves, he quickly corrects any misconceptions about Chain of Command. “It’s Annette’s business more than mine. I help out at the shop, but mainly do the paperwork and accounts.”
Annette wanted a career change from nursing, and supportive George agreed she should be her own boss and run her own business. “We knew the previous owners,” he says, “and helped them making cakes for some time. We’ve just celebrated our two-year anniversary here, and we enjoy meeting so many nice people.”
Annette agrees. “I love that our customers treat the shop as if it’s a special place and feel that it’s a homely, welcoming and friendly place to come to, like they’re visiting us as friends. We also love seeing our ‘doggy’ customers, too.”
On a recent trip Down-Under, says Annette, “we met with an Australian couple who came into our shop every day for two weeks while they were visiting Bury. We’d become very good friends with them while they were here, and I love that.”
To a person, Annette’s courteous staff are always happy to see you – Sarah, Tracey, Tristan, Jess, Marcella, Dora, Gary, Tom and Maggie. By the way, has anyone else noticed how one gentleman in the kitchen resembles singer Kenny Rogers, only much better looking, and he can make better paninis?
Finally, Sally Smith of Pakenham scolds me for omitting St John’s Street in my January 15 column about Bury’s bookshops. Mea culpa, Sally!
She says historic St John’s Street has long been a ‘Mecca’ for book collectors and continues the tradition today. “My father’s shop, G. K. Scott, was next door to the Christian Bookshop. Nowadays, there are charity shops along the street, including St Nicholas Hospice Care and Age UK. St. Nicholas Hospice’s shop has recently extended the collectable books section providing a wide variety of local books, literature, military, travel, as well as shelves of fiction.”
A selection of quality older books will be included in a new antiques centre, Smoking Monkey Antiques, opening later in 2016 alongside St John’s Church.
Sally’s right, of course. We’ve got it all in Bury St Edmunds – choice, goods, and friendly service. As I say, that’s the Bury way.
-- Visit award-winning writer Michael Apichella’s website at www.michaelapichella.com.You can also follow him on Twitter via @MApichellaPhD