Much-loved Leighton Buzzard business Room No.9 celebrates 20th anniversary
'Thank you everyone who has supported Room No.9 and become friends. Without you it wouldn’t have been possible'
Much-loved Leighton Buzzard business Room No.9 is delighted to celebrate its 20th anniversary today.
The shop and cafe first opened its doors in 2001 and has been a firm community favourite ever since, with shoppers perusing the shelves for gifts and meeting in the cafe with friends and family.
Staff celebrated today (June 8) with cake, flowers, and much laughter, and hope the shop will have many more years of success.
Caroline Gates, proprietor, told the LBO: "We started the day with some fizz, one of my staff members made an amazing cake for me, and I was totally spoilt with flowers.
"The customers have been just lovely. It's been very celebratory.
"Lots of customers that came in have been coming for 20 years; so many friendships have been forged here.
"There's a group that were here up in the cafe this morning, about 12 of them, that all met through Room No.9. It's a bit of a home from home."
Caroline was initially renting the store until around 15 years ago, when the chance came to buy the freehold of a neighbouring shop.
She took the plunge and "the rest is history!"
Remembering how it all began, Caroline said: "Walking down Leighton Buzzard High Street one day, I looked in the window of a pretty but unoccupied shop and thought: 'I could do something with that!'
"My interest in beautiful objects, enjoyment of choosing presents for friends and family and my love of feeding people led me to open Room No.9 as a lifestyle store and tiny cafe.
"I planned to open on the 8th June, 2001, and the stock didn’t arrive until about an hour before the doors were due to open!
"We sold out of almost everything on the first day and the coffee and cakes were very popular.
"One of the other shopkeepers popped her head round the door and said 'when are you going to start doing lunches?' and I said 'tomorrow'.
"I then had to rush out and buy a cooker and create a menu!"
Soon the café had grown so popular that it had to implement a booking system, and both staff and customers love the busy buzz created by Room No.9.
Describing the highlights over the years, the team said "seeing people's smiling faces, the laughter, the friendships, and the Room No.9 community".
Caroline also praised the town for its spirit during the pandemic.
She told the LBO: "A lot of customers have been supportive since the lockdown, and we have tried to be supportive to them.
"It's been much better than we anticipated. We are thriving, really.
"This particular high street is successful because of all the independents and we have the confidence of people like Pizza Express and Costa, who chose to come to our town. It's healthy competition.
"The independents put their heart and soul into their business and bring a better range of interesting products to the high street; more handmade products, more individual products."
Caroline's plans for the future include expanding the shop into the cafe area a little, and expanding their popular clothing range.
The businesswoman says that "customers always get a warm welcome and a wide selection of beautiful gifts for themselves and their friends and family", while she and her staff will do their best to help them.
Caroline added: "We look after our customers and they come to us if they have problems. They also tell us about all the lovely things that have happened to them.
"A customer came in on Saturday who had been coming in since we opened, and she said: 'I've just come to tell you that I'm moving up to Yorkshire and I wanted to come and tell you how much I have loved coming here and what the place means to me'.
"We celebrate and commiserate with them; we care about our customers."
She concluded: "Thank you to the wonderful team of friends and family that have worked and still work with me to help create a lively and welcoming atmosphere. I am so blessed to have them in my life.
"Room No.9 is constantly evolving to keep up with trends while keeping our feet firmly on the ground. We’ve survived the ups and downs that so many businesses face and are thriving post lockdown.
"Thank you everyone, who has supported Room No.9 and become friends. Without you it wouldn’t have been possible."