‘My heart has been broken’ – Aspidistra Florist in Letchworth to close six months after move indoors to make way for Premier Inn
- Credit: Archant
A Letchworth florist has said she is ‘heartbroken’ after being forced to wind up her business – six months after her shop moved indoors to make way for a £5 million hotel development.
Carole Robinson’s shop Aspidistra Florist was based in Station Road for more than six years, and moved to The Arcade in March alongside neighbouring Amron’s House of Fashion after plans for a four-storey Premier Inn were approved.
But although Carole initially tried to see positives, the move has been an unmitigated disaster for her business, with footfall dropping dramatically and plants dying in the unsuitable indoor location – and on Friday, September 30, she will close the shop permanently.
“We’ve had an awful lot of tears in this shop over the last week,” Carole told the Comet on Monday.
“I was caught between a rock and a hard place with the Heritage Foundation – they said it was this or nothing. And it was Mother’s Day weekend we had to move, the biggest weekend of the year.
“This is a bakehouse, not suitable for flowers at all – we’ve had to chuck away so many.
“I need people to make impulse purchases, but people don’t see me now. We used to have them park and run in all the time.
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“It’s been a huge financial loss, I’m literally ruined. You just feel devastated. I put blood, sweat and tears into this business for six years, just for it to be destroyed.”
Carole said her landlords the Heritage Foundation had not replied to two letters and are set to charge her rent up to March – £3,000 or so –which she does not have. She has started a petition which she intends to deliver to them when she closes. She said it was too late for her, but that it might show the strength of feeling in the community and help other businesses.
“I took a huge gamble on this place,” she said. “This was my pension. I went in with my redundancy and I’ve lost everything.
“It’s all very well other people making suggestions for me, but at the end of the day it’s my heart that’s been broken. I don’t know what the future will hold.”
Matthew Foulis, the Heritage Foundation’s senior portfolio manager, said: “We are sad to hear Mrs Robinson has taken the decision to cease trading.
“We made it clear from the start that the Station Road tenancy was a short-term lease as the premises were earmarked for redevelopment, so Mrs Robinson would need to relocate at some stage, and rent was set to reflect this uncertainty.
“When the development was confirmed our property team spent several months exploring numerous relocation options with Mrs Robinson before she moved into The Arcade.
“We understand that initially Mrs Robinson was happy with her new premises. When she later raised issues we worked hard to remedy them – for instance purchasing and installing filters to help reduce sunlight into the shop.
“Small businesses are vital to the vibrancy of any town centre and we are working closely with Letchworth BID to fund a range of events and initiatives that are attracting more shoppers, so it is disappointing that this business is closing when there are signs of improvement.”
Premier Inn, whose Station Road site is set to open in the spring, declined to comment.