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A new creative cafe with a difference has just opened in St Neots, completing the final part of the jigsaw which started when Barretts Department store announced it was closing. And on that day in 2015, the closure of the business which dated back to the 1800s led to a sense of dismay around the town that such an excellent and long established retail outlet had been faced with no option but to shut its doors.

However, three years on, and following the subdivision of the store into four separate units, Brown & Co Barfords, the firm of Cambridgeshire property consultants, has highlighted how the retail scene in St Neots has been enhanced with companies including Fat Face, Button Knit and Waterstones all having been attracted to the newly created shops.

And now, the latest addition to the complex is the Art and Soul Café, a project conceived and implemented by Cambridge-based art enthusiasts Tim and Caroline Richardson. Located in New Street, the facility comprises a ground floor coffee shop, together with, at first floor, an art gallery and creative workshop, studio space and conference facilities. All this is within the light, airy and spacious environment of the former Brackenbury's. The new cafe offers a range of high-quality coffees, home-made cakes and tasty food, with the work of artists displayed around the cafe and in the gallery on the first floor. The venture is branded "Cafe, gallery and creative hub".

“We really wanted to create a facility and cafe with a difference“ said Caroline Richardson. “Our intention is that this will be a community venture focusing on and giving inspiration to our customers and clients. We see this as a creative networking venue for use by both businesses and individuals. The gallery will feature work from well-known national artists and we have space available for use by local artists and creative individuals and businesses.”

The coffee offered is from local Cambridgeshire coffee roasters Hot Numbers who source the beans from specific locations, direct from the coffee grower and then create the blend used at Art & Soul. The company says it adopts an ethically responsible ethos that fosters connection, creativity and imagination.

Art and Soul has highlighted the opportunity to cater for private parties, corporate functions, a team offsite or just a special get together. The gallery and ancillary rooms can be hired on an hourly or daily basis and meeting rooms are also available. An important part of the concept will be the establishment of a range of clubs and craft-based initiatives including for example events, seminars and tuition by well-known artists. Typical of these initiatives is a silk painting workshop in the early part of 2019 and a fortnightly "kids craft club" which will run after school. Networking and social occasions can also be catered for.

“It took us some time to secure the right premises “continued Mrs Richardson. “We felt St Neots was lacking in terms of what we wanted to offer and with the anticipated growth and a burgeoning creative and arts sector being evident, we saw the potential of the property and the town. Due to the considerable character, the premises offered the perfect opportunity to showcase our vision. We feel we have created a facility with an ambiance that will appeal to coffee lovers, artists, creative businesses and the local community alike."

Brown & Co Barfords was development advisor and letting agent to the owners of the property. Phil Halmshaw of the company said: “It has taken a little while to arrive at this point, but we are delighted to have been able to assist in the challenging task of remodelling the former Barretts store to create four excellent retail units which are at the heart of St Neotstown centre. It is pleasing to have been able to secure such high profile tenants at a time when business is extremely difficult for many national and local retailers. Somewhat against the odds, the Barretts complex has been turned into thriving retail outlets. In particular, we feel that the Art and Soul Café will prove to be a superb and unique facility for the town and we hope that businesses and individuals will show their support. We wish Tim and Caroline Richardson and the family all the best in their superb new venture."

The letting of commercial property is a core part of Brown & Co Barfords services, with its agency team benefiting from significant experience and expertise in selling and letting commercial premises and land throughout Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. Brown & Co employs over 240 staff and operates from 12 UK offices, largely in East Anglia and the East Midlands. As part of Brown & Co, the St Neots office now benefits from the addition of architectural services, agricultural land agency, auctions and advice on renewables.


For further information about Brown & Co Barfords team and services visit or contact 01480 213811.