01 August 2012

COFFEE IN THE CAR PARK, but not much else

Shops are closing down left right and centre and I worry in case the local shopping area turns into one of those bleak, boarded-up High Streets I keep seeing on television news. Things happen, they creep up on unsuspecting members of the community.
An old picture, the shop was established in 1972
We once had a reputable carpet sales shop, one that we patronised for many years. It was situated in an open shopping precinct, complete with huge car park (very convenient for shoppers) not too many miles from where we live. There are many retailers and businesses in the precinct, supermarkets, hairdressers, off licence, charity shops, opticians, post office, fitted kitchen store, a bank, mobility shop, sports shop, shoe shop, and chemist. The carpet shop faced directly onto the car park, very convenient. Pull up, walk in, drive off, that sort of thing.

Over the years we ordered carpet at the shop for every room in three houses (separately) and were not likely to change supplier. Imagine our horror when a closing down sign appeared. The reason for the actual closure is not known but the guy who owned the carpeting business was moving out to an industrial style trading estate – those areas that are springing up all over the place because they’re off the beaten track and rents are cheaper. It seems safe to assume, therefore, that our man was forced to move because of financial hardship. He still sells and fits carpets but finding him amidst a hundred windowless establishments doesn’t seem very inviting.

To get back to the car park... Hmmm had I actually left? Is it me or has the world gone coffee crazy?  We now have a Costa Coffee Shop instead of a carpet shop, at the busiest point of the car park complete with tables and chairs on the walkway. At times this forces pedestrians to step off the kerb! It seems the big boys had their way. Get rid of the little chap in the carpet shop ‘cause they can get more rent out of coffee sales. 

Because of the volume of stores in situ there is rather a lot of traffic, both parked and moving. Not so long ago I saw a child run between two parked cars and straight in front of a slow moving car. Admittedly this can happen with or without coffee shop furniture but I feel the obstruction adds to the danger. The incident could have been worse, the driver could have put his foot down at that precise moment. Perhaps there should be a sign on the Costa Coffee Shop Beware of Traffic.

I don’t drink coffee but if I did I wouldn’t want to drink it surrounded by petrol fumes, nor am I keen on being totally dominated by supermarkets, charity shops, and hairdressers.
A small section of the car park.
Costa is on the left, out of sight of the camera.
It’s not a big shopping area, the precinct being part of it, but already we have charity shops and eating houses by the score, with a few hairdressers thrown in for good measure. Gone are the high class butchers (only one remains) and greengrocers (the last one closed this week). It’s quite depressing when you think about it. Petitions to prohibit turning the place into a full time eating locale have been on display in a number of shops ... none have worked.

This time my grouse is with the supermarkets. I gave up making what I call proper gravy some time back. It didn’t seem worth the effort when companies like Schwartz did all the work for us harassed housewives. The local supermarket kept me supplied, that is until they suddenly switched to their own brand. The new mixes are designed so that all the user has to do is add boiling water and I don’t find that very satisfactory. For a start there are always lumpy bits that will NOT smooth out. If there’s one thing I hate it is lumpy gravy. Investigation on the Internet brought news that Schwartz was not only still in business but their on-line goods were cheaper than those sold in the supermarket. Free delivery too. Can’t be bad.  Problem solved. But not so with regard to potatoes.

Now that the last greengrocer’s shop has closed, I’m curious as to where I can buy my favourite Cyprus potatoes. Or any other edible tuber, for that matter. Potatoes sold in my supermarket are rubbish by comparison. Occasionally the farmers’ market visits but not often enough to rely on when you’re a spud lover. Isn’t it sad when our favourite shops cease to exist?

Wondering if, like the gravy mix, I could buy them on line I started an investigation. It was surprising to find that Amazon had an arrangement with a Northern company who could supply bags of Cyprus at very reasonable cost, something like £2+ a bag; great .... except .... delivery was in the region of £10. Bang goes another idea.

Oh well, I’ve had my moan. See y’all.


  1. Our high(?) street is full of charity shops! I very rarely buy fruit and veg from the supermarket as we are lucky enough to live quite close to the World Famous Bury Market ( with it's vast array of greengrocery stalls selling fresh produce. :)

  2. I know how you feel Valerie. Its not only the small traders going, its the whole British way of life. What's to be done? Not a lot I fear. I have decided to ignore it all. I don't want to spend my days being unhappy. The youngsters will be used to it. They don't know how beautiful the British way of life used to be.
    Don't get me started!

  3. I have heard it all now. You can buy potatoes on Amazon! It seems they sell everything just about. I wouldn't be very happy with having to step into the street because of tables either. I miss the demise of the mom and pop shops.

  4. Pearl, I've heard of Bury Market from hubs who used to live in Bury. Our only worthwhile market is too far away, only useful if I happen to travel to the city - which I don't do these days.

    John, it is sad that the British way of life has declined so much.

  5. do you have a farmers market nearby? we try to buy our produce there to support local...things are def changing as to the stores in our area as well...

  6. We do, Brian, but they only visit occasionally.

    Denise, grinning at your comment about Amazon.

  7. Oh, I miss the mom and pop shops, too. There was integrity in the business. I think that's what I miss most.

    Yeah--it's not just your little corner of the world. We've gone from busy Main Streets with small businesses to HUGE shopping malls that are now being abandoned for what's lovingly termed 'strip malls'.

    Hey! Maybe we'll go full circle and go back to busy main streets with small businesses again!
    *laughing* We went full circle with platform heels, we can do it with businesses!

  8. Valerie, the same thing is happening here in the U.S., so many privately owned stores are opening and then closing 6 months later. Everything is becoming one big homogenized world of chain store companies because I think they're the only ones who have the money to keep their stores open.

    "Is it me or has the world gone coffee crazy?"

    Yes, absolutely! Here, we a Starbucks on practically every single street corner.

    Great vent!

    Have a wonderful day, dear lady!


  9. Ron, I thought it was only this country that was 'closing down'. Now I find it's the same the world over. I have discovered that the greengrocer here that closed was part of a chain, perhaps it was a small one and not very rich. Yes, we have Starbucks all over the place, and now Costa!

  10. I like the way life used to be. It was much slower and the roses smelled better too! Folks knew your name and what you needed before you did. Not so anymore. I miss those days. I am sorry that your area is changing so much.


  11. great post .. and a moan is so
    much better than a whine...
    I did enough of that today..

    Fortunately we live in an area that
    has an abundance of fresh produce..
    and my favorite grocery chain seems
    intent on opening new stores on every block..

    Growing up I worked in my mom's little grocery store and I feel for all the mom and pop places that are being forced out by the
    huge chains. Too difficult to compete for the small shops.

  12. A couple of years ago the wife and I toyed with the idea of opening a small business, but around that time the economy was in free fall, and we decided against it. Perhaps with things pick up we might dive into it.

  13. Hi Herman, I doubt that things will ever pick up. The big boys are here to stay... sad.

  14. i thought i saw a new post...smiles....hope you are well today val

  15. I think you're right. But then, I don't like change either. I have resorted to gravy mixes in the envelope as well. There's a particular one I like made by McCormick called Country Gravy. It's great with biscuits.

  16. We are very lucky to have Farmers Market every Tuesday and Friday. WalMarts and big box stores are taking over our area and it is a shame.

  17. Thanks for showing us around Valerie. Unfortunately your High Street could be High Street Anywhere, certainly here in Dublin it's a similar picture. Yes, we have plenty of Starbucks and Costa's and other coffee shops, we have charity shops and even shops who buy your old clothes. There are some small "corner shops" but they are mostly Eastern European "Skleps" selling specialised ethnic goods. But the Butcher, the Greengrocer and the Shoemaker are gone, the "for sale" signs are everywhere and the Aldi's, the Lidl's and Tesco's have taken over. But there is some hope - Farmer's Markets are becoming popular and are springing up all over ....

  18. I'll go out of my way to shop with a Mom and Pop shop than the chain stores, I miss the time when down town was full of trade rather then "Remember when..."

  19. Sorry Val. I don't like seeing how things are changing around our area and wonder what the heck it is going to look like when Kyle and Hayden are older. Just taking it day-by-day myself and sending positive vibes out to the universe. Take care.

  20. Blogaire, I didn't realise it was the same in Ireland. Dublin looked really thriving when I was there. Guess I didn't go too far off the centre.

    Hi Jimmy, I like the expression 'mom and pop' shops. Over here they're just known as family shops. I like your version better.


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