Twickenham town centre has gone through some significant changes recently. The recession seems to have hit some independent traders hard and many have closed down. Notices on the empty shops consistently refer to the high cost of rent and the change in buying habits.
Notable farewells to Par Ici on Church Street, which sold items produced by local craftsmen, artists and musicians for a cut of the profits. Langton’s Bookshop and Organic Cafe on Church Street has also closed, leaving a couple of empty retail units on what is Twickenham’s most visited street. Angelo’s restaurant on Heath Road has closed after 20 years of trading, although I confess I never visited. The Staggerin Fancy Dress shop has also gone. It’s very sad to see independent shops close, especially when they’ve been a feature of the town for such a long time.
However, there are some newcomers to Twickenham which have appeared recently. Rubens Bakehouse is a fabulous bakery which makes and sells artisan bread. I have tried the ciabatta which was delicious and will certainly go back to try some of the other amazing breads, though only on special occasions I think as it’s fairly expensive. Laverstoke Park Farm Shop has been open for a while now, but seems to have built up a good trade. For good reason as well, since the meat and other produce they sell is of a very high quality and, based on my purchases to date, delicious.
The residents of Twickenham are now able to save time and effort in cooking by visiting the Cook frozen food shop which has opened on London Road. The shop sells ready made gourmet meals. We’ve tried some curries and a chicken and mushroom lasagne, which were very good. A special mention goes out to the cheese souffles though and their mince pies are historic (as Michael Winner would say); they might even win my ‘best ever mince pie’ award. I’ll need to do a bit more research before I decide though.
The latest edition to the town centre is the Harris and Hoole coffee shop on King Street. We’re fond of a good coffee so we visited today (23 December) for the first time. The coffee was OK, although my flat white was slightly bitter. The coffee shop itself is large and has retained some features from the previous occupants. There’s a noticeboard providing local events and newspapers for visitors to read. The system for buying a coffee was a bit convoluted. Despite being the only person ordering drinks I was asked to provide my name and also issued with a ‘bleeper’ for when the coffee was available. This seemed a bit excessive to me and was slightly irritating. The place feels like an independent outlet, but it seems that this is a new chain of coffee shops about 49% owned by Tesco. Twickenham already has a Starbucks and Costa, so it’s a shame that another large business has taken it’s place alongside them. Still, it has to be a good thing to have the high street occupied by a range of businesses rather than more empty shops.
Twickenham town centre will soon be receiving a makeover and it is to be hoped that it will encourage more shops and cafes to open. We’ll have to wait and see…..
This post is a bit more local than usual, but it reflects the changes that are happening in town centres everywhere.