With the opening this week of Caffe Nero following the sudden closure of the The Cut's oldest supermarket, Supercut Minimarket, does this herald the start of other such changes ? Will other developments be following Café Nero's lead ?
Its difficult to accept but this is what passes for 'change'. When I came to London first, in 1974, I worked for a food photographer whose studio was on Shaftesbury Avenue. The location was convenient for a number of reasons: it was cheap; it was near clients in Soho; it was near Covent Garden Market and transport was relatively easy.
Then Covent Garden Market was relocated and, after a 10 year hiatus, a new Covent Garden emerged, one which was all about the 'retail experience'. Most of the shops and cafes that I knew were swept away (Franks in Neal St still survives I believe) and replaced with the range of retail and culinary experiences that you see today. Thats change, I wouldn't say progress, just change.
In 1978 I took on a studio in Clerkenwell, Easton St, just off Roseberry Avenue. In the 8 years that I was there Clerkenwell was discovered and in the last decade Exmouth Market has become a retail and culinary destination. But in the transition most of the shops and cafe's that gave it its colour have gone. Now, I absolutely don't miss the Wimpy Bar but I do miss Dino's Diner and the Quality Chop House. Yes, the Chop House is still there but only in a rather 'New Labour/Islington' sort of guise. You don't go in at 06.30am and get liver-egg-bubble-fried slice, two crusty slices with butter and a mug of tea as a hang-over cure.
Yes, I miss the 'old' Covent Garden as I miss the old Soho and the old Exmouth Market and, in time, I'll miss the old Bermondsey. But that's life. Nothing stays the same for ever.
Is this necessarily a bad thing? I know they are a chain but, by all accounts (I don't drink coffee so rarely go into any coffee shop) they are the best of the bunch for authenticity.
Surely the businesses that close down wouldn't do so if they were making enough profit survive. If they're not making enough profit it is all of us who are clearly not using them. Is this because of the alternatives available or becuase (as is potentially the case in this particular instance) that there wasn't enough demand for the Cut to sustain two mini marts?
Usually it's because the landlords get a whiff of things being on the up and they raise their rent accordingly. The chains are often the only ones who can afford them and can cope with running at a loss initially as a number of Starbucks branches do as they are subsidised by the rest of the business. The independent businesses get pushed out unless you have a particularly imaginative landlord like the Walden Estate in Marylebone High Street who ban most of the bigger chains so the street doesn't end up looking like every other high street in the country. It can start with property agents advertising on behalf of clients for sites in particular areas, for example, Wagamama 's agent was advertising for sites around Borough Market about a year ago and hey presto a branch is opening in Riverside Arches, Bank End which is part of Vinopolis I think. The Cut has had loads of attention because of the Anchor and Hope and maybe that got someone thinking they could squeeze more cash out of local businesses or just get some new ones.
Thinking about it, the Palestra building probably has a lot to do with it - several hundred or even thousand people will eventually work there I suppose so expect lots of More London style identikit coffee places.
Starbucks in Madrid - what a shame. Is it me or is their coffee just getting weaker and weaker? When I go to work, the only place open is Starbucks unfortunately and even with a double shot, all I seem to get is a great big gallon of greasy milk. I've now given up coffee altogether, except for Monmouth of course!
The observation about Marylebone High Street was interesting. If it is owned by one estate, which I am perfectly happy to believe, then the chances are that they, like other establishment property owners, are in it for the long term. They are unlikely to be heavily borrowed, if at all, so there is no debt to service. That puts them in a very un-marketlike position where they can determine, to their pocket, taste or prejudice, what happens.
They may, as emmab says, turn their face against global brands on a point of principle or, on the other hand, they may have worked out that a larger number of smaller, higher ticket tennents, produces more revenue that a smaller number of larger, global brands.
Either way, Starbucks are always the Johnny-come-latelies. They move in when the scene has moved on.