Monday, 20 November 2017

Shops for sale

Shops for sale

A PARADE of six Henley shops is to go under the hammer for almost £1 million.

The freehold for the business premises, plus two flats, at the junction of Greys Road and King James Way will be sold at auction next month.

The move has sparked fears among some of the business owners and people living in the flats that they could be forced out.

The site is next door to the small commercial estate formerly owned by merchant drapers M Makower & Co that is set to redeveloped into 17 homes.

The six businesses are the One Stop convenience store, the Thunder Pizza and Happy Wok takeaways, laundrette Launderama, Char’s Nails and Beauty and Twilights Hair Studio.

They will be part of an auction being carried out by property consultants Allsop in Knightsbridge on December 6.

Char Law, who has the lease for the nail and hair salons, said she feared a developer would buy the freehold in order to turn the site into housing. “It’s a scary time for us because we know the businesses behind are all going,” she said.

“All of us feel that builders will take an interest in us because that’s more houses. Commercial doesn’t make as much money for them as residential.

“Our biggest fear, for our customers too, is we’re all going to be out on our ear.

“I’ve had to start looking at what’s available to me but cost-wise I wouldn’t be able to stay in Henley. Down in Henley town centre is much more expensive.”

Mrs Law, who lives in Ruscombe, has run the beauty salon for nine years and the hair salon for three but the latter has existed for about 50 years.

She said: “From what I’ve been told, I don’t think that having our leases makes us 100 per cent safe but it makes it a little bit harder for them to get us out.

“We have got loyal customers who have been coming to us for over nine years and it has been a lot of hard work building a business.

“When I opened here we had spent a lot of money getting it up and ready and we didn’t have much left to play with but we’re still standing.”

Irene Cook, a beauty therapist at Char’s Nails and Beauty, has lived in one of the flats above for seven years together with her daughter, who is registered disabled.

She said: “If someone comes and knocks it down I’ve lost my home and job. If they refurbish the flat they will put the rent up. I just have to sit and wait.”

Her daughter, who has Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit disorder, works in the Twilight Hair Salon and Mrs Cook said the arrangement worked well.

“It is a really good little community here and everybody seems to look out for everybody else,” she said.

Joe Morris, who has run the laundrette for five years and has the lease on the other flat but doesn’t live there, believes the site will be bought as an investment rather than for redevelopment.

He said: “If someone’s going to buy it for a million quid and build on it the council wouldn’t give permission to knock it all down and start again.

“I suspect someone will buy it as an investment. The landlord hasn’t spent any money on the place, it just needs an upgrade.

“I am concerned about it but what can I do about it? Not a lot.”

Tarnak Safi, who has run Thunder Pizza for five years, said he wasn’t concerned about the future of his business and would consider giving up his lease for the right price.

He said: “They would have to buy me out. I could take the money and start something else. Everything is for sale — except my wife and children! I’m a businessman.”

He believed a buyer would have to spend three or four million pounds to redevelop the site.

“At the moment they are getting some money from the businesses,” he added. “If I were the businessman I would keep it for 10 years at least.”

Mr Safi said redeveloping the land as housing would be a “stupid” idea as the businesses were well-used and valued by the community.

He suggested a revamp of the parade so that it would look in keeping with the new homes behind.

The auction guide price has been set at between £900,000 and £950,000 for the parade, which has a car park opposite.

The total rent generated is £63,350 a year. Thunder Pizza currently pays £7,000 a year, the hair salon £6,500, the laundrette £12,500 for the unit and flat, the Chinese takeaway £7,800, Char’s Nails and Beauty £7,950, the One Stop £12,000 and Mrs Cook £9,600 for her flat.

One Stop’s lease expires in 2028 with a rent review in 2018 and a tenant break clause in 2023.

Char’s Nails and Beauty took a 10-year lease in December and its next rent review is due in 2020.

The hair salon took a 10-year lease in 2011 with a rent review this year.

The launderette took a 15-year lease in 2003 on both the business premises and flat.

The Chinese takeaway took a 15-year lease in 2001 which has now expired and is “holding over”, meaning notice has not been served.

Thunder Pizza has a 15-year lease until 2026 with a rent review this year.

George Walker, a partner at Allsop, said the seller was a private property company which had owned the site for many years.

He said: “The existing tenants have got a lease — no one’s out to destroy any businesses. The freeholder will just change and it will not impact their agreements at all.

“A little local scheme such as this, in a town like this, will give them [the buyer] security of income.

“As an asset class, our investors really like to see what they are investing in. With the low rents in these shop units there’s always potential for growth.”

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