Newark Advertiser exclusively reveals Newark independent café Stray’s is moving into grade-two listed The Ossington building three years after Zizzi’s closed doors
The Advertiser can exclusively reveal which business is moving in to the historic Ossington building in Newark.
Stray’s, a popular café and bistro on Middlegate, will be expanding by moving into new premises in The Ossington, on Beastmarket Hill.
The business, which has been a staple of Newark Town Centre since it opened its doors in 2003, will celebrate their 20th anniversary in December, with plans to be up and running at The Ossington in the new year.
The grade-two listed building had previously been occupied by Zizzi’s, however has remained empty since the Italian restaurant chain pulled out of the town in August 2020.
As one of Newark’s most eye-catching landmark buildings, questions over what would happen to the space were re-ignited last month when it was placed under offer.
Originally a teahouse and coffee palace built in 1882 for the Viscountess Ossington — whom lends her name to the building — Stray’s moving in could be seen as the return to it’s roots.
It has since been used as a hotel and restaurant.
Stray’s owner, Mat Short, said: “When we first opened we used to be Newark’s best kept secret.
“We only had about 20 seats but we became known for doing really good coffee and homemade cakes and we’d end up with a queue out the door — since then it’s just grown and grown.
“Newark is a really good town, we’ve built a good reputation and grown a strong following — I still see a lot of people come in who were here on our first day.
“But we are missing out on a lot of people in the evenings because everything else around us is shut and there just isn’t the footfall.
“So when The Ossington came up it gave us a real opportunity to make some changes and expand our offer.”
Stray’s had previously planned to expand through satellite cafes in Stamford, Market Harborough and Oakham, however mid way through these plans pandemic lockdowns forced them to close.
Ultimately these other cafes had to shut up shop for good, however, the one site to remain popular and successful throughout was where it all started, in Newark.
“There is a lot of pride in this town,” said Mat.
“I’ve traded here for a good 30 years and when people say they’re from Newark, they are so proud of that and want to support the town.
“The problem facing the town at the moment is that it’s becoming quite difficult for independent traders and what always made it amazing was the massive amount of independents we had here.
“When you come into Newark over the bridge, The Ossington is the first thing you see.
“It’s a phenomenal building and it’s a tragedy it has been closed, so I think bringing it back into use goes hand in hand with having a popular independent business like ourselves inside.
“It’s almost as if we are putting it back to what it was meant to be all along.
“It will be sad closing the doors to Middlegate for the last time because we have so much history there and it has so many stories to tell, but now it’s time to move forward.”
When Mat was first given the keys to The Ossington he found a ghostly reminder of Zizzi’s, with tables and chairs still set up, wine glasses laid out and specials still chalked up on menu boards.
With a capacity of 120 seats, Stray’s will make the most of the former Italian restaurant’s set up by re-instating the pizza oven to expand their range of food and open up the outdoor terraced space in the warmer summer months, offering views of Newark Castle and the River Trent.
They also wanted there to be a continuity with their Middlegate site, with Zizzi’s bright blue walls now painted over with a warming and inviting deep red, wood panelling details throughout and comfy arm chairs and sofas for those looking for a relaxed atmosphere.
There are also plans to make the most of their new prime location for evening trade by staying open for longer, with proposed opening hours of 7.30am to 10pm at night.
Stray’s has also welcomed live musicians since 2007, an area they are keen to expand on with their new larger and more open space.
The new location and opening hours will also allow them to grow their team, with plans to hire a further 10 to 15 members of staff.
Although the main retail unit has been empty for over three years, the upper floors of the building have remained occupied as residential flats whom Mat is working with closely.