Rash of closures on West End Lane

[original post May 10th 3.30pm]
[updated May 12th 10.30pm]
[updated May 15th 3.30pm]

If the retail landscape hadn’t changed enough with the knocking down of the strip of shops opposite the post office, this week’s seen four units close on West End Lane. Before we all get too depressed, it’s worth noting that four places have also opened this week in West Hampstead.

Blue Daisy’s retrenchment to the safety of yummy mummyville in Hampstead has been mooted for some time. When it came time to renegotiate the lease on its West End Lane branch, it decided enough was enough. Has the arrival of JoJoMamanBebe up the road had anything to do with it? Seems like this town ain’t big enough for the two of them.

Talking of competition, the sushi explosion that’s occurred in West Hampstead over the past year or two was bound to do some damage somewhere. The venerable Sushi Gen didn’t last long once the sushi wars began, but Me Love Sushi is the latest to fall victim to sushi overload. It tweeted that it had sold up to the owners of Cafe Rouge although from correspondence with the Tragus Group, which is Cafe Rouge’s parent company and also owns previous incumbent Strada, we know that in fact it owned the site anyway and Me Love Sushi was a leaseholder. Tragus is now looking for a new leaseholder so it’s unlikely to be one of Tragus’s own brands. In the meantime, Me Love Sushi fans can still get their fix (or their delivery) from the Swiss Cottage branch.

Another saturated market around here is pizza, so it wasn’t a great surprise to hear that Picasso’s has shut up shop – with the bailiffs called in to the premises. Although reviews of the food had largely been good, it always seemed to be quiet and may have strugged to establish itself over perennial favourites Lupa, Sarracino and even Domino’s.

Finally, and more out-of-the-blue, was the closure of ShakeTastic. The tiny milkshake bar never seem rammed (and was never open early enough for a hangover-curing morning juice), and although the staff were always lovely I was never convinced it fitted in here. The poster that’s gone up in the window suggests it might return, but in the meantime the West Hampstead branch is relocating to Pinner(!).

In more positive retail news, Minkies finally opened its tiny outlet by the Overground station to much acclaim. The well-liked Kensal Rise business had had us waiting for a year – the staff blamed TfL and Camden bureaucracy for much of the delay. Its position sets it on a collision course with Starbucks and Costa but with nowhere much for people to queue, I suspect it will maintain a very steady passing trade without setting the world on fire. It’s also well placed not just for commuters at the interchange but the two large estate agents opposite.

This very afternoon the sweet shop next to West End Lane cars re-opened too. Probably had to wait until ShakeTastic closed so as not to exceed the sugar quota for that stretch of road.

Away from West End Lane, there’s a new tea-shop on Mill lane called Curled Leaf that I’ve yet to get to and Spice Tree (which used to be Babur Empire) also opened on Mill Lane. Meanwhile, Tiger Stores – the Danish Muji if you can countenance such a thing – has opened in the O2.

What does all this mean for the retail landscape? It seems that established businesses are generally faring ok – most of the recent closures have been of more recent arrivals (the business above, Pita, Chez Chantal), though of course there are exceptions (LoveFood, Walnut). It’s hard to get a foothold in the area I guess. Lena’s is one of the few newish businesses that’s really thrived – largely because it’s a unique offering for West Hampstead. A lesson there.

If you’re interested in learning more about the evolution of West Hampstead, then put the 21st May in your diaries. I’m holding an open forum aimed at the younger population for people to share their views on what they love and hate about the area and what they can do about it. There’ll be more details on this v.soon.

[photos via @misshkwilson]

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  • I'd love to see a Cafe Rouge back on West End Lane. That would be a welcome addition to the area

    • Article since updated – we won't be getting a Cafe Rouge.

  • Anonymous

    The area around the stations is chaotic (3 stations – big interchange point), seems like the volume of passengers interchanging at the overground has exploded in last couple years. Simply too much foot traffic for the pavements to handle around that area.

    Chains will slowly kill independent shops in west hampstead. Simple example is cafe nero, which will slowly kill 2/3 nearby independent coffee places.

    West hampstead was great 5-10yrs ago with no chains, that’s slowly being eroded. The Sainsburys and Tesco cause havoc in the streets when their unload the delivery lorries on west end lane, and you constantly get beggars outside of them.

    I guess w hampstead is now a place that has been discovered, and what made it great will slowly erode away.

  • Anonymous

    Cafe Rouge?! Sigh… SO bored of chains.

  • Anonymous

    …and Cafe Rouge is fairly and squarely MEDIOCRE if not poor.

  • Just a quick comment from us at Blue Daisy – we'd like to clarify that the arrival of JojoMamanBebe did not impact our plans. We have been in good relations with JoJo and their presence has had a positive impact on West End Lane since they opened. We hope they thrive in West Hampstead and wish them all the best.

  • Anonymous

    I have to say that Hana is a prime example of how well a 'local' business vs a chain, can do in West Hampstead- the place is always packed!

  • So is LoveFood closed then? The sign claims it's just shut for renovation. I've been looking forward to their reopening — have I been fooling myself?

    • The owners sold up a little while ago. Apparently it's going to reopen as a café during the day and wine bar in the evening.

    • Anonymous

      We’ve aquired the space that was love food. Never fear – we wont be doing pizza or sushi! We hope you think that what we open will be a vast improvement on previous incarnations.

      I will be attending on Wednesday night to listen to what you would like. We are independent, antipodean restaurant / cafe.

      We want to make it reflect you and the locals, we passionately believe in West Hampstead, in community and in amazing food. So please tell us what you like / dont like – come armed with your wish list.

      Watch this space – renovations happening shortly!

    • Anonymous

      I meant Tuesday night! – see you tomorrow

  • Interesting– and disappointing. I thought they had the best pastries on West End Lane. Ah, well! My waistline is probably better for it.

    Thanks for the information. (And for all your great work.)

  • Anonymous

    "Sushi Gen didn't last long" – as far as I recall it was there for at least 19 years … but I'm one of those meddling over-40s! Richard

    • What I meant, badly expressed clearly, was "didn't last long amid all the new competition". Will reword. 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Yeah I thought the same when I first read that about Sushi Gen. I know it was there for at least a decade as I remember the owner telling me the name was actually “Sushi Bar Gen” (meant to be like Sushi Bargain apparently) but the sign read as “Sushi Gen Bar”.

      They did well for many years but I think their biggest problem was the lack of investment in their restaurant, which started to look fairly tatty near the end. They seemed to do well when it came to deliveries though.

  • Anonymous

    I heard through the grapevine that in Blue Daisy's place will stand….yet ANOTHER hairdresser.

    So many complaints about the presence of chain shops but a high street COMPLETELY (AND INCREASINGLY) DOMINATED by hairdressers, charity shops and estate agents just can't be a desirable outcome.

    • Anonymous

      Don't forget all the restaurants and cafes [yawn]

    • Anonymous

      You mean all of the 'quality' restaurants and cafes?? WH should have a better selection…

    • Anonymous

      …and yet another hairdresser pops up in West Hampstead on Fortune Green Road. What gives?

    • Anonymous

      No one has a vision for anything other than the three stated shop types its not hard to see why they have failed. For anyone thinking of opening a shop see what we are missing a gift shop, interiors, a wine bar, independent gastro-pub, clothes shops, interesting quality lunch takeaway all these you have to walk up to Hampstead to find.

      Open these as independents not chains and they will thrive in WH which is known for its individuality and not wanting to be a carbon copy of Hampstead’s chain branded high street .

    • Not sure it’s a lack of vision – more a question of economics. Sadly, we had a gift shop and it closed a couple of years ago. Think the Alice House/Gallery would claim to be more “independent” than chain – not brewery tied anyway. Lena’s does good lunch takeaway… we do have some of these things, but it’s very hard for independents to cover West End Lane’s high rents and still make a profit given their higher costs.

      Hairdressers have limited overheads after initial capital outlay, there hasn’t been a new charity shop for some years and estate agents – well, it’s hard for anyone to argue that we don’t have enough of those! 🙂

      I’m not sure whether you’re arguing we should be more like Hampstead or not?

  • Anonymous

    The ShakeTastic West Hampstead branch isn't relocating, it is closing down! The Shake Tastic Pinner branch opening has nothing to do with the West Hampstead branch – it is totally different.

  • Still waiting for a record shop….