Sunday, 19 September 2021
A BAKERY shop in Henley could close after 60 years with the owner blaming “unfair” competition from markets.
Ricky Martin, 47, who owns Patisserie Franco-Belge in Duke Street, says he is losing business to the traders selling bread and sandwiches at the regular markets in the town square.
He also claims that the footfall in the town has declined and that shoppers are being put off by the lack of sufficient parking space.
Speaking at a meeting of the town council’s town and community committee, Mr Martin said: “I am here to talk about the trading environment and the decline of Henley economically.
“I have been here a long time and the high street has declined and Duke Street in particular. It is a wealthy town but it has declined quite badly.
“Markets are having a severe impact and I don’t think there has been a market analysis. They are affecting Duke Street and our business. Sometimes they can turn a really good week into a loss-maker because they are taking so much trade.
“I am not anti-market but I am unhappy at the way they are managed and see it as unfair competition.
“I am now in the situation where the shop needs a refit of between £120,000 and £160,000 for new mixers and ovens. Unless I have got the support, I don’t think it is the right decision to invest that money. I think that will probably mean we close. Charity shops are the only thing that seem to be making money because they don’t have to pay rates.
“I have nothing against charity shops, they are good in a mix, but there’s probably too many in Duke Street and probably too many in Henley.
“I feel I am the last man standing — the last baker — and feel the decisions you make will decide whether I stay or not.”
Mr Martin said that parking was a major issue, adding: “Look at Marlow — it hasn’t totally solved its parking problem but you can park in the town centre.”
He suggested creating more spaces in the Greys Road car park and in Hart Street.
Councillor Sam Evans said Marlow and Henley were “poles apart” as the former did not have the regular visitors that Henley attracted.
She added: “Some of the parking issues are quite short-term. Some of it is simple redirecting signage to the car parks.
“But it shouldn’t come from the council, it should come from the town. There is so much potential here — it is the best place to work and live.”
Cllr Evans added that a group should be set up comprising people who understood the economies of the town and had experienced running a business.
Councillor Will Hamilton urged Mr Martin not to close.
He said: “I think £160,000 producing novelty breads and great products is a great investment and I think we can run the markets better. I hope you will stay in Henley.”
In December, Mr Martin was granted planning permission to turn Patisserie Franco-Belge into two smaller shops and add an extension at the rear to create two flats in addition to two existing ones.
In the application, Sarah Baillieu, of agent Baillieu Architects, said the bakery was not under threat, adding: “The business isn’t going anywhere.”
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