THREE Henley businesses are to leave the town and a new retailer is to open, writes Jamie Presland.
The Foam Fashion boutique, tapas restaurant La Bodega and estate agent UK Sotheby’s International Realty, all in Hart Street, are all to close or have already done so.
Meanwhile, interior design specialist Farrow & Ball is to open a shop in Thames Side.
Georgina Henderson, who has run Foam for nine years, says she can no longer sustain the losses caused by having a builder’s skip outside her shop which has driven away customers.
She has complained about the disruption since it began in February last year and even won a business rates reduction after being taken to court for non-payment.
Ms Henderson, 51, said: “The damage to our trade has made it impossible to continue.” The shop will close next Saturday.
La Bodega, which was owned by Juan Gil Rios, opened more than 10 years ago. It is believed to be moving to Twyford and will be replaced by Cau, a chain of steak restaurants based in London.
The restaurant closed on Sunday and nobody from the business was available for comment.
Sotheby’s opened its sixth regional office at Speaker’s House in August 2012 to cover property sales across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.
It was headed up by HenTim Shears, who had returned to his home town, and Philip Booth, who has lived in Henley all his life.
A statement from Sotheby’s parent company Countrywide plc said it had decided to sell the franchise agreement. It continued: “We have made a strategic decision to only trade with fully owned brands, thereby avoiding restrictions around franchise agreements.
“The Henley branch location is duplicated within our already strong London and Premier offering and we will merge the branch with our strong prime brand of Hamptons International. We are looking to capitalise on further opportunities in this location.”
Town centre manager Peter McConnell said: “Businesses change and move on and I’m sure within six months we will see all three premises occupied.”
“Shops and businesses come and go quite quickly. It’s all part of the natural churn you get in any high street.
“If you look a Henley now compared with 20 years ago lots of the premises have changed hands.
“I’m not sure what more we at the town council can do to support them. We don’t control business rates or rent. We give them a lot of marketing support and bring footfall into the town but we can’t force people into shops.”
Farrow & Ball will open a showroom selling paint and wallpaper on Wednesday.
To celebrate the occasion, customers are being invited to a “paint by numbers” event in Market Place on Saturday, September 6, where they will be able to paint their own murals.
Meanwhile, the owner of a Henley clothes shop that has closed its doors after 18 years has thanked her customers for their support.
Vanessa Lakatos, owner of Deep Clothing in Reading Road, held her final day of trading yesterday (Thursday).
Earlier this year, she decided not to renew her lease, which runs out next Friday, saying she “felt like doing something else”.
She said: “It feels like the right thing to do. I’ve loved it — we have had a brilliant time and everyone’s so nice. I’m going to miss all my regular customers and all my eccentric ones!
“Everyone is very good at supporting the local shops and I hope they continue to do that because it’s vital.”
Deep Clothing was based in Reading Road for 10 years and used to have an outlet in New Street, where Mrs Lakatos lives.
Customers and passers-by will be familiar with her rescue dog Java who liked to sit in the shop doorway and be petted.