Friday, 24 September 2021

Owner attacks business rates as art shop closes

A HENLEY art shop has closed after more than three years.

A HENLEY art shop has closed after more than three years.

Four staff lost their jobs when the Simon Drew Art Works shop in New Street shut on Christmas Eve.

Mr Drew, 62, blamed the cost of overheads, particularly business rates, as well as having to travel from Dartmouth, where he has two other shops.

The shop, which he ran with his wife Caroline, opened in September 2011 and replaced the former Deep clothing outlet.

Mr Drew, an illustrator, said: “We’re very glad we have had it for that length of time and we still think Henley is the next best town to Dartmouth.

“I suppose in the end it was a combination of overheads and the travelling 200 miles every now and again. If the Government was serious about wanting to encourage the high street then maybe it wouldn’t squeeze it so much with business rates.

“It was just all this shelling out on the business rates every month — it’s like a stab in the back.”

Mr Drew thanked his customers and the part-time staff for their support.

He said: “Having such good staff meant we kept it going as long as we did but it was never going to be a forever thing.

“Unfortunately, they have to look for other work which, of course, we’re really sorry about more than anything because they were all so good.

“We are extremely sad to say goodbye to Henley. My sister and niece live in the town so I’ve got lots of reasons to come back.”

The couple will continue running the shops in Dartmouth.

Mr Drew, who grew up in Caversham, lives in Devon and is well known for his humorous illustrations and word play.

Books of his designs have been published and he sold these at the shop along with pictorial puzzles on greetings cards, mugs, aprons, T-shirts, ties and coasters.

The former biology teacher set up a gallery in Dartmouth more than 30 years ago. His pictures feature all kinds of animals, including puffins and polar bears. Some are given human attributes but they are drawn with biological accuracy.

Mr Drew’s artworks used to be sold in Deep, which was run by his niece Vanessa Lakatos, but then the business focused on clothing.

After leaving New Street, Deep operated solely from its Reading Road outlet before this closed in August. Mrs Lakatos decided not to renew her lease, saying she “felt like doing something else”.

Mr Drew’s cards are still available at the River and Rowing Museum.

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