Shop Closures

Nancy says

Just wanted to pass on my concern about local shop closures.  LeFleur, the flower and teashop on Royal Hill, shut its doors this past week (and sold off much of the interior); Stitches and Daughters, which has existed in some form or another for 40 years, in Blackheath and in Greenwich, has announced through a note on its door (confirmed by the shop attendant) that it is likely to cease trading in a few months. While neither business was doing terrifically before the Olympics, this seems an unlikely coincidence.  

No one can deny that the Olympics/Paralympics effected trade in Greenwich, with lane closures and crowds keeping, I am told, many regular customers away and not replacing them with an equal number of new ones.  A few businesses may have done well — Davy’s Wine Bar and the pub across from the main gate to Greenwich Park appeared well stocked with Olympic clients —  but during an economic downturn, this month-long, unchosen hiatus in normal trade may have been just enough to tip many into into closure.

There’s no denying we’re losing sweet indies like la Fleur (I did take a nice photo of some customers leaving with half the shop under their arm, including tables and a ‘tearooms’ sign but I appear to have lost it, gah…) and I can only assume the worst for Hooper and Palmer at Westcombe Park station, which has been closed for some time.  And as many will know by now, Bar du Musee is to be replaced by a Jamie’s Italian.

But is this really all due to the Olympics? True, there were issues in the first week or so, and they were never totally resolved, but frankly, I think this is wider than that. It’s not just in Greenwich places are closing – the whole country is seeing turndowns.

Could it be that we are just not going to the sweet indies enough? Hooper and Palmer was gorgeous to look at, and admittedly there were fewer trains at Westcombe Park during the ‘lympics,  but they had the misfortune of opening after Pistacchios in the Park, enormously popular with families for being – well – in a park and not next to a road, as much as anything. I loved to look at it, but if ever I was passing, I was on my way somewhere  - it wasn’t a destination.  I meant to go – and never did.

La Fleur, again a gorgeous-to-look-at place, for me, never really made the transition from florist to cafe – it opened rather odd hours, which I never fully got my head around, and did very little in the way of food – which although perfectly nice, didn’t come up to Royal Teas standard IMHO. I think most people thought of it as a florist that did the occasional cuppa – certainly when I was in there, there seemed to be a steady flow of people either coming in or phoning to buy flowers or plants – and being told (rather brusquely) that they didn’t sell them any more.

As for Bar du Musee – well, I can’t see that the Olympics is to blame for that one – it was a cough and a spit from the venue.  For me, that place lost its soul many years ago, when Inc. took over, going from mysterious, eccentric oddity – a really quirky, original experience – to a theme bar where the theme was the bar it used to be. After my mum and me arriving and being ignored in a nigh-on empty restaurant for 15 minutes by gossiping waiters, my last visit was three years ago.

Don’t get me wrong – I am really sad that we are losing our indies – but I do wonder how much blame we should be putting on ourselves for this.

I was a regular coffee drinker at LaFleur (when it was open) but I put my hands up now – I never got round to visiting Hooper and Palmer (much as I intended to) and I can’t remember the last time I visited Stitches and Daughters – mainly because, apart from a copy of Neil Rhind’s Blackheath and Environs, they don’t really do the sort of stuff I buy.

If we want to see these places survive we have to use them. Certainly from Hooper and Palmer I’ve learned something – seize the day – If I see an interesting new place, don’t wait for a gap in the schedule, visit now – it might not be there when I’m actually ready.

I really hope that we don’t lose our indies to chains – Jamie’s Italian will be taking up a large chunk of Nelson Road now (mainly due to Inc’s greed, hollowing out the place at the back to make the venue into such a bloated monster). But we have to support them if we want to keep them.

I notice that Greenwich Communications Centre are starting a new support club for the next generation of would-be entrepreneurs. Their first meeting is next Tuesday.

Right. I’m off to get a coffee at L’Artisan…

18 Comments to “Shop Closures”

  1. tintinhaddock says:

    I think LaFleur was always going to go – the lady who ran it was retiring. I believe the original leaseholders have come back and will be re-opening it themselves.

  2. Paul says:

    It is sad that we’re losing these shops – especially as the Stitches & Daughters shop looks destined to become an Estate Agents, they’ve applied for change of use – but you can’t blame the Olympics.

    Instead, blame the greed of owners like Greenwich Hospital in particular, a charity that exists to fund a private school, and has often imposed huge price hikes on Greenwich shops. Then, as the Phantom points out, we have the problem of Greenwich Inc, who ruined the Bar Du Musee and so many other of their establishments.

    Normally the arrival of another chain would depress me, but you can’t deny that Jamie’s Italian would be a huge improvement over the dreck that BDM served up.

  3. Richard says:

    Lets be honest the majority of the indies in the town centre are rubbish. If these are replaced by mid market chains like Jamie’s then this should be a good thing. I would rather be able to go to say a Pizza Express than that Tex Mex place next door..

  4. Tony says:

    On top of the general economic malaise and the sub-prime location, gossip from the Curious Comb suggests that Hooper & Palmer suffered from managerial differences of opinion. It never exactly seemed a happy place…

    Bar Du Musee closing just shows that market pressure can be a force for good. Terrible, terrible service. I know Jamie’s is a chain but it is a very good chain, certainly a fair swap for BDM.

  5. Nelson's Left Eye says:

    Great, because what Greenwich needed was ANOTHER Italian restaurant.

    A giant branch of Jamie’s should do wonders for Bianco!

  6. Dave says:

    If Bianco is good enough it will survive, I have heard it is very often mediocre

  7. Nelson's Left Eye says:

    We should rename Greenwich ‘Little Italy’.

  8. Richard says:

    I thought it was terrible. Given the choice between terrible independents who cater for tourists who will never return and decent chains that at least cater for tourists and offer something to locals I would plump for the chains.

  9. John says:

    I’ll take Bianco over Jamie’s any day of the week even if I’m not exactly a regular. It might provide competition for Pizza Express though in the battle of bland chains.

    For all the years I’ve lived in the borough though, I still can’t fathom why Cafe Sol is still popular. No idea if it’s indie or a chain though.

  10. Richard says:

    Fleur is aleady being redecorated for the new shop’s opening..

  11. Steve says:

    Hooper and Palmer did do nice flowers, but was very expensive and had rather eccentric opening hours. I soon gave up going there for a coffee or a bunch of flowers as more often than not it was closed, and on the rare occasions I found it open the service could be a little cold.

    While we should all stick to the principles of ‘use it or lose it’, small businesses also need to keep to their side of the bargain – good service, reasonable prices and reliable opening hours.

  12. capability bowes says:

    Bar du Musee probably closed because the service was atrocious and it was wildly overpriced and a complete dump inside. Nothing to do with the Olympics.

    Stitches and Daughters have been going downhill for years. They used to have a much bigger, double fronted shop on the other side of the road and it was full of the kind of thing that only a devoted fan of Laura Ashley would buy. The fact that it moved across the road to a smaller premises and became “Stitches and Daughter” (in the singular) seems to suggest that at least one of the partnership lost interest some time ago.

    I think it is invidious to blame these closures on the Olympics when they were both probably on their last legs a long time before the games ever came to town.

  13. Mike M says:

    From talking to many friends who run businesses in and around Greenwich, I’ve heard some real horror stories with regards their turnover during the summer in comparison to last year. The BEST I heard was a 20% drop in turnover… The worst was nearer 80%.

    Yes, the Olympics is not solely to blame for some businesses going under, but, given this sort of drop in turnover, it’s no surprise that many are really struggling to keep going at the moment,

  14. Gary says:

    Frankie & Benny’s, Nando’s, Byron’s, and now Jamie’s. Urgh. I’ve been to a few Jamie’s and the menu NEVER changes. Same in every restaurant for three years now! I won’t be going there as would prefer, if I’m going to frequent a chain I’d rather go to Zizzi’s. Bianco looks good but never been in as it looks way too small for our precocious 2-year old.

    The best places to frequent for decent food nearby are the Royal Albert in Deptford and the Vanbrugh on Columb Street. So looks like I’ll be eating mostly out of town.

  15. RogerW says:

    Matter of fact, the effect on trade in Greenwich during the Olympics, was another topic covered by Andrew Gilligan in his blog.
    He actually went to a number of places and spoke with their owners. Among the places he visited were Red Door, Monsoon and the Bar du Musee. Virtually everyone he spoke with talked of a downturn.
    (I think his blog entry can still be seen on his Daily Telegraph blog page.)

  16. Darren says:

    Roger, Andrew Gilligan lost his credibility regarding the Olympics a long way back.

    I’ve seen how quiet its been with my own eyes but to be fair that’s been the picture all over London.

  17. Michael says:

    Not sure how true this is but I’ve heard Jamies have pulled out. Their solititors have discovered that the garden area is not actually owned (leased?) by Bar du Musee but are in fact the property of Network Rail. As I say not sure how true all this is…

  18. David says:

    Looks like the LeFleur closure was nothing to do with the olympics – it’s already up and running again as a flowershop (and, from what I’ve seen so far, a much better one – wider variety and more reasonably priced).

    You don’t find a new tenant to set up that quickly if your previous tenant has gone bust in the last few weeks.