Customers rally behind coffee shop ownersBy Stephen Lloyd
March 12, 2012
UPROAR has greeted news that a thriving family business is being forced out of its prominent town centre unit.
Sarah Anderson and John Bastin of More Than Coffee in Fleet’s Hart Shopping Centre are furious their landlords are taking offers from other interested parties.
“We are a small family run coffee bar who have been in Fleet for 13 years,” said Sarah.
“We care about our customers and every drink that we make for them.
“This business is our life, and pays for the roof over our children’s heads and puts food in their tummies. We have put our hearts and souls in to More Than Coffee and desperately want to stay open.”
More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition and a paper one in the shop urging the powers that be to let the couple stay in the unit.
More Than Coffee has been told by The Hart Centre managing agent Colliers International that it must move from its current unit on April 7 even though its lease is not up.
Colliers says it is simply acting under instruction from the landlord.
More Than Coffee has been offered one of the 12 empty units in the Hart Shopping Centre as an alternative, but with set-up costs at some £40,000 they say they cannot afford it so they would be put out of business.
The situation has sent shock waves through the community.
Fellow Fleet retailer Tim Cockram said: “I know the blood, sweat and tears that go into building an independent business. John and Sarah have worked tirelessly to establish More Than Coffee and deserve to be treated with respect by their landlord, not contempt.
“The only thing keeping Fleet town centre as a viable shopping destination is the wealth of independent retailers we have, which keep the town fresh and alive while the major chains falter.”
Fleet Carnival chairman Chris Alden said: “I am appalled and disgusted at the treatment of More Than Coffee.
“This family-run business has been in Fleet for the past 13 years and is a thriving part of the community. For the landlords of Hart Shopping Centre to force this business to cease trading is beyond me.
“Not only are they forcing another independent out, but they are also stripping a family of their home and income.”
Fleet mum of three Tanya Barrow added: “More than Coffee are fierce supporters of all things local and the shop is always full of people enjoying a hot drink or food.
“They have put the rent up, John and Sarah have offered more, but the landlords want more than that. It is disgusting, utterly despicable.”
A spokesman for Colliers International said: “Generally when units are let by way of a short term licence, ie on terms for less than one year at a time, a landlord continues to market the property with a view to securing a longer term, secure tenant as each licence expires.
“Indeed, for the subject property the current licence allowed for breaks at six-monthly intervals should a permanent tenant be found.
“All parties have always been aware that the unit was being marketed throughout all periods of occupation. The existing tenant has been offered alternative locations elsewhere in the centre.”