There’s no doubt that Kingston looks a million times better than it did when I first started living here in 1989.
We’ve got some great shops and cafes, and The Rose has brought a touch of class and culture to Kingston. I think it’s great we have our own theatre and we should be proud of it. The market too plays a its part. It’s a colourful centrepiece and I just love the German, French, and Italian themed markets.
There are some great bits of art dotted around the town too – the phone boxes (which I love) being the most famous.
However, (you sensed there’d be an however didn’t you?!) there’s a real danger that Kingston could lose it’s identity. It’s shops and cafes are dominated by chains. Just look at the coffee shops - there are two Costas, two Neros, two Starbucks – there may be more.
This has to be partly the fault of high business rates and rents. And high costs have resulted in another problem for Kingston – units standing empty. I don’t think it’s because of the recession either because, for as long as I can remember, there have been areas that always seem to have empty shops.
Crown Arcade is a good example. Few businesses survive long in what’s really a cut-through to other places. That end of Eden Walk isn’t much better either.
I just don’t understand why the council and the landlords of these shops obviously insist on charging crippling rates and rents. Surely it would be better all round to get some money in by having them occupied?
Empty shops, particularly ones in which businesses don’t seem to survive five minutes, are bound to have a knock-on effect on the businesses around them. They create areas where people don’t bother to go because they don’t think there’s much there.
I’ve only just recently discovered Le Traiteur, the new café in Crown Arcade. That’s because the arcade isn’t somewhere I’d bother going - I just happened to meet the manager at a networking event. I hope it survives longer than previous occupants.
I was talking recently to the owner of Café Boho a fab little place in Kings Road. (take a look at Annie Armitage's photos of Boho then go and treat yourself to their amazing cakes and excellent coffee!).
Becky told me she had looked at premises in Kingston but the business rates were just too high.
She told me that Café au Play, a café aimed at parents and their children, had to close because of the crippling costs in The Rotunda.
Becky thinks the council should do more to support local businesses that provide the people of Kingston with the type of outlets they want.
If the costs of running a business in Kingston are too high we end up with empty units and bland same-old-same-old shops because only the big players can afford to be there.
If we’re not careful Kingston will end up being Anytown, Anywhere.
Member since: 7th November 2009
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