I was just thinking it was time for a good old Jeff rant again, but I was racking my brains - what is it that riles me up recently? Well, I'll tell ya what it is. It's the fact that I have a job I like and can do that isn't too taxing and that gives me the ability to have a life. I like that.
"Well, what's so bad about that, Jeff?" I hear you cry. "Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. What are you moaning about, you whiner?"
Well, you are right. It IS a pretty cool gig, I have to say. But the fact is, it's coming to a close. Finito Benito. Adios, amigos. Gone, and never called me mother. Done.
Yes, head office has decided that they can no longer afford to keep us open what with the current economic climate and the landlord jacking up the rent and all that shamozzle. That's what annoys me.
When our company signed the lease for our shop three years ago, there were some factors they did not count on.
Firstly, they did not know that within a 20-minute drive from our shop, there were not enough of our ideal demographic customers to support us. We live in a town that is picturesque and pretty and surrounded by countryside with lots of rich gentry and nouveau riche commuters. Or so you would think. At least, that's what Head Office was thinking. But within 20 minutes you have the big town of Ashford with its giant ASDA and giant Tesco and other giant stores. Plus you have the ignorance of people who have lived here all their lives and never given us a second glance. I can't tell you how many times I've answered the question "How long has this shop been here?" with "Three years", followed by a surprised look and a sound emanating from them not unlike Scooby-Doo... "Huuhh?". This question has now replaced "Are all these meals frozen?" as the most aggravating one customers ask. I am simply exhausted from answering it.
The company also knew when they signed the lease that they would be re-signing it this year. Trouble is, our landlord decided to jack up the rent so high that when they looked at how much we were making, all this new demographic info and did some adding up, they went..."Oh shit."
People come in the shop and when they learn of our imminent demise, they (a) assume the whole company is going tits-up, and (b) when told otherwise, say "can't something be done?" Well, too little too late I'm afraid, the deal is set in stone. June 4th is our last official day and we are less than pleased about it. Not to say cynical.
Yes, I'm afraid to say that while we are appreciative of people's sympathy, we are becoming a little jaded and tired of all the outpouring of grief. Yes folks, we are making sarky comments about you after you leave the shop.
I was also less than impressed with the way in which we were informed. Edward, the guy that founded the business, flew in to the shop one Monday morning while I was down at the bank. I was there for 20 minutes, tops, and by the time I got back he too was gone. I found out that he'd come in and told Tom, my boss, the reasons why etc, and then gone off on his hols to Mombasa. Well, thanks Ed. Don't let us stop you from enjoying your damn hols. And don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
The shop lies in a building that used to be the off-licence next to the Ye Olde Cellars pub. the entire building is now one of many owned by the Edmonds brothers, who seem intent on buying up the entire town piece by piece, redeveloping it and turning the whole damn place into a quaint strip mall of their own hellish devising. Let me tell you a little story.
When I worked in Threshers (as the off-licence became called), we went through a remodel in the year 1990. While we were being remodelled, the company (Whitbread, who also owned the pub and its outbuildings) turned one of the outbuildings, an old barn-type affair, into a shop unit for us to use during the interim. Once the remodel was complete and we were back in the original shop, which is now where I work at COOK (it is truly bizarre, by the way, to be working in the same exact building I worked in 20 years ago), the shop unit that we had occupied for those few months now stood empty. Fast forward to 2010 and the entire building and shop unit is entirely owned and its different units rented out by the landlords, the Edmonds brothers. They used to be pro cricketers. But their tactics are not what I would call cricket.
The shop unit when I got back to the UK was a cafe/tea room called Shelly's, and so it was until about a week ago. Because Shelly's closed on the Saturday evening, and by Sunday night it was empty of everything save the counter and a few chairs and tables. They vanished. When someone pointed this out to me last Tuesday, I went and looked for myself. As I was doing so, another shop owner in our building stood outside their shop and I said to them, "When did this happen?" He informed me that they'd gotten a notification of their rent increase and decided to pack up and go, adding as he did so that if his rent goes up too much he'd have to hit the road too.
On Friday I noticed the Brothers had tacked up a notice in the window that the place had been repossessed for 'non-payment of rent' and gave a phone number to call with 'any info'. Today, Monday, the painters and handymen are in there fixing new stuff up in there and one of them lets slip it's going to be 'an ice-cream parlour'.
Does that seem at all odd to you? The tenants ship out on a Sunday night and the following Monday a new business is going in there? Call me cynical, but given the current economic climate, I scarcely think that the streets of this town are teeming with people anxious to start an ice-cream business. It may just be the jaded me talking, but I would not be at all surprised to learn that the new owners of said purveyors of frozen cow's milk would be none other than the Brothers Grim themselves. All of which gets me to the next logical leap, where I ask myself the question - after we move out of the premises, (a) how long will the place remain empty? (b) what will the new business that goes in there be?, and (c) who will the new owners be?
Wait and see, won't we.