And here we have a mini-High Street Update for you. An interim post, if you will. It’s almost poetic in its symmetry, balance and poignancy. Almost.
We have three photos that say something about the state of the modern suburban high street. Although we really ought to have kicked off with an empty shop we’ve spared you that depressing site despite there being plenty to choose from in Twickenham.
First, The Crown on Richmond Road, newly refurbed with a foodie focus after a long period of closure and already getting some good feedback on Twitter.
Second, the display at The Coffee Lab cafe on King Street. The latest addition to Twickenham’s cafe culture serves good coffee and some impressive looking cakes.
Third, one of the big kids shows up late to the party. And he hasn’t even brought a bottle! It’s the new Sainsbury’s Local at Twickenham Green. Expect a mix of offers, bargains and overinflated prices. Not all on the same items obviously.
The concept of an indoor market in Twickenham sounds intriguing. When local resident Alan Winter wrote to the Richmond & Twickenham Times about his idea and also posted details about it on the ‘Your News’ section of twickerati
Twickenham. More spark needed. Apply within.
it generated a good deal of interest. In fact, here at twickerati
HQ we thought it warranted a place on the front page of the site. So, with plenty of lively debate on here and elsewhere about the state of our high streets, we hand over to Alan to explain his idea and how it could work. Oh, and he’d like your support too…
“An indoor community market. Could it happen in Twickenham? I think it could. Since floating the idea a month ago I have received messages of goodwill and support for the idea from many people. The positive response has encouraged me to pursue the vision as an active project. Here’s why and how it would work…
Heath Road now hosts an unacceptable number of empty retail and commercial properties. In the 50′s and 60′s this was a busy and varied shopping area with many specialist shops. It is now a sad looking entry route from the west into Twickenham, full of eateries that often don’t last very long or estate agents, barber shops and charity shops. The road is ripe for some serious thinking on a subject that was previously dropped when Poundland took over the then vacant Woolworth site.
So let’s consider the idea of a midweek and weekend indoor market. The idea here is a simple one. The empty shops that are all clustered around Rubens excellent bakery are empty for a reason. These are some of the smallest retail units in Heath Road. Traditionally they would have been taken on by budding entrepreneurs and start-up businesses but in today’s climate these units represent too much of a financial risk for a start-up. Business rates and rents are coming in at a minimum of £20,000 p.a. This is before shop fitting, stocking, insurance and utility costs.
So we need somewhere for the small retail business person to get a foot in the door. Hence Twickenham Indoor Market. Stallholders would be local resident entrepreneurs and craft persons who are unable to afford current retail rents and business rates but who would like somewhere to try out and sell their wares…
Sir? Madam? Can we tempt you with a brief High street update? Indeed, we would be sincerely honoured if you were to peruse the following article. Err, like, now dudes.
York Street’s in a right old state of flux. Carpet House is closing down and the Rugby Store is moving on. From all the newspaper plastered over the windows recently it looks as if Hair Design (10 York Street) is no more. Work going on inside suggests a new shop will be opening there soon selling phone accessories, gadgets, mobile top-ups, sunglasses and the like [Update: It's called Khan Communication]. Din’s Grill – the intermittently open takeaway sans pareil - is getting a refurb and a new independently run takeaway will open in its place; something a little bit different we hear. And it does seem that we may finally see some movement in what was the old Shanghai Village restaurant with the long-awaited (by some, perhaps) arrival of the estate agents Foxtons at 20-24 York Street. A few steps along, the short-lived Bathrooms4All (now Bathrooms4None) store could be getting new occupiers soon…
“If you’ve got nothing to say, don’t say anything”. Wouldn’t the world be a beautiful place if we all kept to that mantra? Well yes, probably, but here at twickerati we’re not about to find out. Despite things being fairly quiet out there, we’re going to say something about it anyway.
The biggest news is probably the least unexpected, namely that Blockbuster has joined the long list of big name high street casualties. The chain is now in administration although northern-supermarket supremos Morrisons are in the market to buy 49 Blockbuster stores and turn them into Morrisons Locals. Will Blockbuster in Twickenham be one? Will Sean Bean’s dulcet tones soon be ringing out across Heath Road? We don’t know yet. The store is about the right size for a ‘local’ supermarket and in the current climate there might not be too many other retailers willing to take on a unit of that size. The twickerati view is that the best solution is to divide the current shop into several units accommodating, say, a charity shop, a café, and an Indian takeaway. This might work well given how lacking we are in such establishments in Twickenham at the moment. Would a Morrisons work? Who knows? There’s an M&S Food and an Iceland within 200 metres and a Waitrose and Tesco Express within 1/2 mile. Add to that the Sainsburys on Twickenham Green and numerous independents and one might feel there were already enough options to buy food locally.
And talking of the impending Sainsbury’s on The Green, we’re certainly no evangelists for supermarket chains but we have to say that some of the comments submitted to the El Brute licensing committee border on the hysterical. Yes, some have genuinely valid concerns but for a few others it’s as if the addition of another outlet for alcohol near the Green is going to lead to a complete breakdown of civil society and see Twickenham morph from leafy London suburb to post-apocalyptic Mad Max-esque hell hole ruled by teenagers, powered solely by alcopops, Hollister T-shirts and iPhones and where words of more than one syllable are banned.
Opposite Blockbuster the former florist shop Chez Chevallier, the one that was both short-lived and a bit crap, has been re-let. We hear a rumour that a kitchen showroom will be moving in. Now, is there a big demand for new kitchens during a recession? Dunno. But what we do know is that a kitchen showroom would fit with the Council’s Twickenham Action Plan that dreams of having that stretch of Heath Road populated by such establishments. A DIY heaven, if you will. Or will it be a kitchen gadget shop, perhaps? We’ve heard it said that Twickenham lacks a place to purchase that oh-so-special lemon squeezer and so maybe that could work too. Anyone?
Woohoo! It’s not long until Valentine’s Day and we all know what that means. That’s right, a beautiful, romantic red rose. Or rather, an undersized rose crammed into a plastic tube which never blooms but simply wilts when exposed to the atmosphere. Damn and blast that Shell petrol station! But it doesn’t have to be like that…
Get the love in Church Street
Twickenham’s Church Street traders will be feeling the Valentine’s lurrrrve and sharing it with you in the form of a treasure hunt. How does that work then? Good question, Einstein. Well, four times a day from the 12th to the 14th February, if you’re in Church Street, then you’ll have the chance of finding a Valentine’s Goodie Bag. The bags might be hiding anywhere in Church Street’s shops, pubs or restaurants, or like our local traffic wardens, they could be lurking in the street, partially hidden from view. And the contents? A Sweetie Pies cup cake (best eat that straight away, obvs) and details of a prize donated by one of the many businesses in Church Street.
There’s a bit more detail through the link below or through the power of love (and the internet), you can click the image to enlarge it and read more.
* More info from the TTBA
If you don’t follow @twickerati on Twitter or ‘like’ it on Facebook (and why should you) then you might just have missed an interesting feature in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday. Locally based MoS journo Vicki Owen wrote a good article about how social media is being used to help UK high streets and stone the crows guv’nor, she only went and wrote about Twickenham, didn’t she? OK, so she also wrote about Dunstable and Whitstable but, frankly, Dunstable, Schmunstable.
The background to the piece, or at least the Twickenhammy bits, is the opening of Ruben’s Bakehouse on Heath Road back in December. Here at twickerati HQ we’ve given some blog space and tweet time to Igor the baker and his excellent bread, and Igor was tipped off about getting in touch with us on Twitter by local estate agent, Milestone Commercial. It seems our tweets and high street updates helped Igor raise his profile in Twickenham and pick up customers at his new venture, and that’s something we’re very pleased about.
Now, as you know, although we’re pro-Twickenham on these pages we’ll never say that everything is wonderful locally or that every Twickenham business is brilliant, but we do like to mention the good stuff and raise awareness generally to help people make up their own minds. Of course, one local website is not going to create a thriving town centre and there are plenty of others who are working much harder than the team here at twickerati HQ to improve Twickenham, but we’re very happy to get some recognition – and free publicity – for helping.
* Mail Online / This Is Money Article
* Ruben’s Bakehouse
* Vicki Owen on Twitter
Oh, and thanks very much for all the positive feedback on Twitter and Facebook about this. Tis much appreciated.
The arrival of Burger King in Twickenham has met with a mixed reaction from locals. Some are delighted, others disappointed with the new restaurant on London Road. Thanks to the power of Twitter it didn’t take long (a matter of hours in fact) for the first photo to circulate of Burger King litter dropped in the street. It was probably just a one-off accident so there’s no need to make a meal out of it.
Burger King, London rd
The franchise will no doubt do a reasonable trade, and on rugby days it’s sure to having them queuing out the door. Fair enough. It’s handy for the police too. We reckon they like a burger, but please, keep any jokes about Whoppers to yourself. But what about a near 24-hour supply of burgers
? Can you handle that? CAN YOU HANDLE THAT? Well, that’s what Karali Leisure who own the franchise are applying for. Or rather, they’re applying to serve ‘late night refreshment’ until 5.00am.
Our last High Street Update was a pretty comprehensive affair and it seems that not much has happened since then. Or rather, a fair bit has happened but mostly in the form of things that were going to open now actually being open.
What you talkin bout Willis? Well, Ruben’s Bakehouse is now open at 52 Heath Road selling baked-on-the-premises ‘artisan bread’ and even offering deliveries too. In fact it’s an ‘artisan bakery lab’ not just a bread shop. Initial reviews seem good and Ruben is tweeting away on Twitter mentioning things like ‘sourdough’, so it could be worth your while checking it out. He’s been selling bread in places like Kew market and Ham but his Twickenham shop is a new venture. At between about £2.80 and £3.50 for a loaf it’s not cheap but we can confirm that it is darn good bread. Best of luck, dude.
Also now open since our last update is the Blah Blah Blah vegetarian and vegan restaurant also on Heath Road, near the ‘Red Lion’ Tesco Express (more on that company later). The menu is small but has a few interesting things on it. It’s the fifth restaurant on that site in the last few years so let’s hope it sticks around.
And another one from our last update, Ales & Tails bar on York Street is no longer a ‘pop up’ bar, it’s now a fully grown-up bar. It’s had its refurb and is open for business selling a range of ‘craft beers’ and cocktails and has got a good menu going on too. It’s been busy putting itself about a bit on the marketing front and feedback so far has been positive.
Burger That! We see that what was O’Zon on London Road is to become, wait for it, a Burger King! KFC, Wimpy and now Burger King in Twickenham. What chance of the return of McDonalds to the town some point? Don’t rule it out. In fact the Burger King’s franchise owners are seeking a late opening licence for food, though not booze. (see the comments section below).
It’s been a while hasn’t it? Some would say too long. Others might say it’s not been long enough since our last high street update. We’ve not been totally idle though, because we’ve published our Twickenham mega-shopping list which indexes the 220+ retail outlets in central and west Twickenham and discusses the future of shopping in the town. We’re certainly not short of retail space although some of the shops listed certainly appear short of customers. But there are success stories too. Have a look and have your say on the Twickenham retail experience and on the likely winners and losers. The link is below. In the meantime, here’s a quick update on what’s going down on the mean streets of ‘Nam.
JoJoLoo cafe and “mini-super” on Heath Road has closed. Open for less than year, it’s a shame when small businesses close but you have to think that this one was never really going to work. There’s no shortage of cafes and convenience stores in the area and another small one of each was always going to find it hard to carve out a share of the market.
After an epic journey around the streets of Twickenham involving hours of diligent note taking, we are able to bring you the great twickerati “Twickenham Shopping Index”. It’s not quite the Standard & Poor’s ratings index but it is a seriously considered (if amateur*) assessment of the prospect of the town’s sometimes successful but often beleaguered retail premises. Continue reading