The shocking rent rises in central Brixton have put yet another local institution in jeopardy.
Brixton Wholefoods, a fixture on Atlantic Road for nearly 40 years, has had its rent increased by £17,000 to £37,000 a year.
It is the latest in a long line of businesses threatened by landlords demanding ever higher rents.
Landlords Threshold Land & Estates Limited are based in leafy Hampton Wick near the Thames in Surrey.
Hilary Waterfield started the shop 38 years ago when it was located across the road in what is now the Lounge. Tony Benest, who co-owns the shop with Hilary, has been serving customers there for 35 years.
“We had a massive rent rise and considered closing down,” says Hilary. “But we decided to rise to the challenge. Our shop has always been one of the hubs of the Brixton community and this was the main reason we were determined to keep it going.
“I tend to feel we have been carried into this tide of change and we have very little influence.
“It was very different in the days that our property was owned by Lambeth council and we felt we had some support from our landlords. But when they sold up to the present owners that all changed.
“We have no support at all. All financial responsibility is passed on to us. It is, all about money now, not about our lovely Brixton community.”
Tony added “We are just about coping. I just wonder what I’d do if I gave it up.
“Brixton has a reputation as a boom town. Landlords reckon if the older shops and traders are priced out, there’ll be plenty queuing up to get it.”
“A lot of our old customers have decanted to Croydon and Thornton Heath and so don’t come in every day. The gentrifiers don’t spend on food, as they eat out a lot. We do still have a lot of students coming in though and our herbs and spices are our big draw.”
On top of the rent rise, rates are expected to increase from next April to £7,000.
Another much loved favourite on Atlantic Road, Kaff Bar closed in 2015 after its rent tripled. The premises are now occupied by a burger chain.
Kaff owner Steven Ross told the Brixton Blog at the time: “I’ve been fighting this for a year and it’s impossible. They weren’t willing to negotiate and we cannot afford tripled rents.”
“All I can say is we have to start to fight so that this doesn’t happen to others: small businesses are being priced out of the area, just like in the housing market.”
The list of businesses forced to close or relocate continues to grow, either because of rents or redevelopment. Even some of the newer chain restaurants and other retailers have found the market tough and have been shortlived or are considering their presence in Brixton.
The Virgin Media shop on Brixton Road was recently advertised for rent at £160,000 by surveyors Williams, Gunter, Hardwick and appears to have been successfully let.
Kashmir Butchers on Electric Avenue, recently restored, is on the market at just shy of £60,000 a year. The neighbouring, unrestored shop is offered for £39,000.