How Bishopthorpe Road became the ‘Notting Hill of the North’

20 Nov 2014 @ 9.38 pm
| Shopping

Another hugely popular community event – the winter lights switch on and street party – topped an amazing year for Bishy Road. Local Ruairi Lewis explains its renaissance

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Icing on the cake: Bishopthorpe Road is right up everyone’s street. Photographs: Bishy Road on Facebook

As a local, I get to experience Bishopthorpe Road nearly every day. Even on a quiet day (or as quiet as it can be) the feeling of something happening is never missing.

Walking up its length on a sunny Saturday is where Bishy Road (as it’s known to locals) really comes to life. Shoppers, both locals and tourists mingle just like on Parliament street.

But there is a feeling of community that thrives here, and sets it apart from the other tourist hot spots in York.

Bishy Road 2014 highlights

  July: Bishopthorpe Road stars on Tour de France day with the J’Adore Bishy Rue street party after the riders had departed

  October: Great British High Street Awards judges confirm Bishopthorpe Road is in the top three of the local centre category

  November: Santa heralds another popular party with the winter lights switch on

  Bishy Road on Facebook

This community is the basis of all the businesses on Bishopthorpe Road as I learnt from Lucy Edwards at the gluten free café Stanley and Ramona.

Having only opened eight months ago, the business is one of the newest additions to the café culture that is so prevalent on Bishopthorpe Road.

In today’s economic climate you would imagine that competition was fierce on a high street filled almost exclusively with independent shops, but you would be wrong.

Community spirit was what drew the team behind Stanley And Ramona to Bishopthorpe Road, and community spirit is helping them become so popular.

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Two of Bishy Road’s many fans

They weren’t just accepted on the street, but “welcomed and supported” by local businesses, Lucy told me. They are also giving back this support by buying the majority of their ingredients from retailers on Bishopthorpe Road.

When speaking to Sue Kedie at the Pig And Pastry I got a very similar story.

However this came from the café that has now been open for six years and has become an institution on the street. The exact words “community spirit” were used again and I was beginning to see why.

While both these cafés have tourists as a large part of their customer base, both really run through regulars. When you sit and down for a drink you really begin to appreciate this as staff greet customers like friends – and they give non regulars the same openness.

Friendly atmosphere

People I asked in the street said they were attracted by the friendly atmosphere as well as the “top quality food”. there is a family atmosphere, with younger couples mixed with older families with kids of a range of ages.

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The Tour de France street party
The street is not just cafés of course – although at first glance it might seem so. One of the most established businesses on Bishopthorpe Road is Cycle Heaven, which has offered all manner of bikes and cycling equipment for 21 years.

The Tour de France this year was of course a dream come true for cycle enthusiasts, and Cycle Heaven took part in this by providing raffle prizes.

But the shop that seems to epitomise Bishopthorpe Road is the award winning hardware store, Pextons that has been “serving the community since 1933”. And

The fact that my family got keys cut for our house there, as well as a Christmas tree last year shows the range that can be found inside.

So this, along with a hairdressers, fruit and veg shops, an opticians, a dry cleaners, gift shops, a butchers and many more make Bishopthorpe Road a real high street.

So the unofficial title of the ‘Notting Hill of the North’ definitely seems fitting.

That said, it knows how to party a bit harder than the London borough. Thousands joined in the winter lights celebrations on Thursday (November 20), complete with choirs, Santa and the street’s own fund-raising beer, Bishy Brew, created by Little Brew at Clifton Moor.

Bishy Road being declared among the UK’s top three shopping streets in the Great British High Street Awards came as no surprise.

It didn’t take the top slot. But for everyone in the community it was already a winner.