A beloved Pantiles shop closed its doors for the last time this month after rising rents and changes in consumer habits took their toll.
The Pantiles Bookshop had operated on the famous promenade for over 12 years, but the cost of running the shop, which specialised in second-hand books, board games and tea, became too much for owner Steve Marshal.
When his lease came up for renewal, the 60 per cent increase in rent meant the shop was no longer sustainable.
Mr Marshal said: “It priced us out and so we looked at another location on The Pantiles but that wouldn’t have worked either.”
Despite the rent increase, Mr Marshal, who ran the shop with his wife Valarie, did not place the entire blame at the feet of his landlord Targetfollow.
He said: “We’ve always had a good relationship with Targetfollow and they were probably acting on the advice of surveyors but we just couldn’t afford it.
“We also found The Pantiles had become very food-orientated and it brought a different kind of footfall with less people coming down here for retail.”
By chance, the couple came across a new location in Goudhurst after a friend said he was closing his antique shop. They are now trading two days a week from their new premises.
And although Mr Marshal said the closing of the Pantiles Bookshop in its original location could have meant they took retirement, they had a compelling reason to carry on.
He said: “My son Matt has high-end Asperger’s and it was his part of the business selling loose leaf tea and coffees, so we wanted to continue for him.”
His new venture, The Goudhurst Bookshop and Daily Grind on the High Street, is now almost two shops combined, with books taking up one room and the tea and coffee business the other, although there is not enough room for the board games.
And Mr Marshal is optimistic about the future.
He said: “Several customers from Tunbridge Wells have already tracked us down and my sense is a few more will come.
“Goudhurst is a busy and attractive village and we are happy with the different environment.”
The future of the Pantiles Bookshop
Landlord Targetfollow said the Pantiles Bookshop had been a ‘great tenant’ and an asset to Tunbridge Wells.
But the company admitted the success of The Pantiles as a place to do business and an area of entertainment had resulted in ‘higher market rentals’ over the past few years.
A spokesman said: “We spent a long time with the Marshals exploring if a renewal of their lease was possible and looking for other accommodation on The Pantiles.
“But ultimately they opted for more affordable accommodation outside the town. We work hard to maintain our tenants but unfortunately in some circumstances it is just not possible.”
The spokesman also said the vacated premises would not remain empty for long, as the company is in ‘the advanced stages’ of securing a new tenant, whose identity was not disclosed.