New cafe collaboration in the heart of Bedford

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The Gallery cafe on Howard Street (formerly Délices) opens its doors on Saturday 9 February following a complete refurbishment.

In these days of corporate coffee shops & online anonymity, the Gallery offers something truly unique in Bedford town centre, with collaboration at its heart.

Final preparations are underway…

As we reported before Christmas, the on-site bakery will be home to Companions Real Bread CIC who have relocated from their former – very temporary – premises on Mill Street. Companions offers meaningful work experience to ex-offenders, baking 100% real bread and offering bread-making courses. They already wholesale to some Bedford’s many cafes and restaurants.

Read more here: Companions Real Bread to take over Délices bakery

The state of the art facilities at the Gallery mean that the Companions bakers will be able to greatly increase their output – and sell their bread over the counter at the cafe.

The cafe also shares the space with the Art Centre, one of Bedford’s longest-established independent retailers.

The Gallery’s manager, Simon Gillet is confident that the cafe will bring new customers into the Art Centre, new converts to Companions’ sourdough bread and create a vibrant cafe for Bedford’s creative community to grab a coffee and a bite to eat (the full menu will be available from the following weekend).

Companions bread
Photo credit: Cat Lane

The space has undergone a dramatic transformation, creating a more intimate and welcoming environment. Contemporary dark walls, framed prints and lots of greenery (much of it sourced from fellow indie retailer, the Magic Garden) give it a unique identity among Bedford’s other cafes. Each has its own personality, clientele and USP, and the Gallery is no exception.

“We’ve built a warm, friendly environment, offering great customer service,” explained Simon, who has ten years’ hospitality experience at Patisserie Valerie and Giraffe. “The collaboration with Companions is great for both of us. The facilities here mean we can offer them the opportunity to grow their business, helping more ex-offenders and enabling them to bake in bigger quantities.”

Sharing the building with the long-established Art Centre, the cafe will encourage shoppers to grab a coffee, while cafe users wont be able to resist browsing the Art Centre’s gifts, cards and art. Win win!

As traditional retailers struggle to adapt to the reality of 21st century town centres, it’s a credit to the Art Centre that it has reimagined its space so dramatically. When Hobbycraft opened in Rope Walk, it could have signalled the end for the business which has been trading in Bedford town centre for nearly three decades. However, owner Don Gillet knew that they must adapt to survive. “You’ve got to move with the times,” said Don. “Hobbycraft was the catalyst for change.”

A wider gift and card range was added, local artists’ work was given more prominence and the art supplies department was streamlined. Following the launch of the Gallery cafe, the Art Centre will undergo a refurbishment too. Watch this space…