Bakery owner threatens to close during market protest

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A bakery in Henley could close after 60 years, with the owner accusing the markets of “unfair” competition.

Ricky Martin, 47, owner of the Franco-Belgian pastry shop in Duke Street, says he is losing business to traders who sell bread and sandwiches in regular markets in the town square.

He also claims that footfall in the city has declined and shoppers are put off by the lack of sufficient parking space.

Speaking at a city council and community committee meeting, Mr. Martin said, “I’m here to talk about the business environment and economic decline in Henley.

“I’ve been here for a long time and the Main Street has declined and Duke Street in particular. It is a rich city but it has declined quite badly.

“The markets have a severe impact and I don’t think there has been any market analysis. They affect Duke Street and our business. Sometimes they can turn a great week into a deficit week because they take so many trades.

“I am not anti-market but I am unhappy with the way they are managed and I consider this to be unfair competition.

“I am now in the situation where the store needs a redevelopment of between £ 120,000 and £ 160,000 for new mixers and ovens. Unless I have the support, I don’t think it’s the right decision to invest this money. I think that will probably mean that we will close. Charity shops are the only thing that seems to make money because they don’t have to pay tariffs.

“I have nothing against charity shops, they are good in a mix, but there are probably too many in Duke Street and probably too much in Henley.

“I feel like I’m the last man standing – the last baker – and I feel the decisions you make will decide whether or not I stay.”

Mr Martin said parking was a major problem, adding: “Look at Marlow – he hasn’t totally solved his parking problem but you can park in the city center.”

He suggested creating more space in the Grays Road parking lot and on Hart Street.

Councilor Sam Evans said Marlow and Henley were “poles apart” as the former did not have the regular visitors that Henley attracted.

She added, “Some of the parking issues are fairly short term. Some of them are simple redirection signs to car parks.

“But it shouldn’t come from the council, it should come from the city. There is so much potential here it is the best place to work and live.

Cllr Evans added that a group should be set up including people who understood the city’s economies and had experience running a business.

Councilor Will Hamilton urged Martin not to close.

He said: “I think £ 160,000 to produce fancy breads and great products is a great investment and I think we can manage the markets better. Hope you stay in Henley.

In December, Mr. Martin obtained the planning permission to transform the Pâtisserie Franco-Belge into two smaller stores and add an extension at the back to create two apartments in addition to the two existing ones.

In the request, Sarah Baillieu, of agent Baillieu Architects, said the bakery was not threatened, adding: “The business is not going anywhere.”

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or by email at [email protected]


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