Nottingham’s Derby Road is undergoing a ‘renaissance’ thanks to new independent businesses

From shops to restaurants to cafes, Derby Road is becoming a hot spot once again for nightlife and shopping writes Benedict Cooper
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In days gone by the stretch of Derby Road between Maid Marian Way and Canning Circus was a busy destination for a unique collection of upmarket, independent shops.

Located on the edge of the well-heeled Park Estate, the shops of Derby Road served a wealthy local clientele eager for antiques, exclusively tailored suits and vintage jewellery, high-end furniture, and decadent wines and spirits.

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Gradually, since the 1980s, the makeup of the street has changed, as have retail tastes, and Derby Road has suffered the consequences.

Music lovers were devastated to hear last year that old favourite musical instrument retailer Windblowers was closing down after serving its niche customer base for generations.

But that was just one in a long line of magical old shops to go in the area: fancy dress and vintage clothing store Golden Cage a few years ago, just last month craft fabrics and textiles specialist The Craft Studio and - going back a long way now - fancy suit shop Whistle & Flute Menswear.

While the loss of these unique independent businesses is a cause of sadness for the city, there is good news. Because now this old gem of the Nottingham economy is going through something of a renaissance.

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The addition of new student housing around Canning Circus has had a visible effect on the local pub scene - as well as some superb options at the top of the hill, there are now several new bars on Derby Road itself, including the beautifully-named (if you’re a Forest fan) Mist Rolling Inn.

There are also some very exciting new places to grab a bite to eat, including big-hit hybrid bakery and cafe Tough Mary’s Bakehouse, and cosy restaurant and bistro Little Brickhouse.

But increasingly this stretch is regaining its reputation as a magnet for shops, and shoppers, with eyes for the finer, quirkier things.

This has been helped enormously by the opening of a chic new store for exclusive Nottingham fashion brand Universal Works, towards the Canning Circus end of the strip.

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For years Universal Works, which sells hip, high-end clothing, was located in a small unit above Rough Trade on Broad Street. Now the brand has a new home, in a beautiful standalone store,

And it is in very good company, situated right next door to another elegant and unique shop, another new arrival to the area.

Lovers of beautiful plants and flowers might already have heard of the Little Plant Guys from their years of serving customers out of a store in Beeston. Now the owners have decided to take the plunge and bring their love of all things green to Nottingham's city centre.

The “stunning” Little Plant Guys store has now opened in this prime and, we hope, up-and-coming area, taking its place close among neighbouring retailers including gentlemen’s tailor Smalleys, and high-end furniture seller Danish Homestore.

And as a ghoulish bonus to draw the footfall in, Derby Road is also now the site of the relocated Haunted Museum, formerly of Hopkinson Gallery basement fame.