Popular Southsea bookshop owner 'emotional' after closing for good 33 years after opening
THE owner of a popular long-running bookshop that has been forced to close after a ‘massive’ rent hike has admitted it ‘feels weird’ but added he is ‘glad after a nightmare two years’.
Adelphi Books owner Robert Smith was slapped with repeated rent increases by property agency Holloway Iliffe & Mitchell that left him with no choice but to call time after nearly 33 years of trading in Albert Road, Southsea.
The 62-year-old was told to cough up £5,250 to £7,500 a year, with an interim payment of £6,500, before being dealt the final nail in the coffin after being suddenly told to pay £10,000 a year.
Robert battled to keep the shop alive by slashing prices but was forced to admit defeat and close the shop, which first opened on April 13, 1987.
Speaking on the last day of his lease, 32 years and nine months after opening, Robert told The News: ‘It feels pretty weird and emotional. In a way I will be glad to finish because the last two years have been a bloody nightmare.
‘At least now I won’t have to deal with the property agency. I feel I have been treated badly by them. The next rent demand was for £10,000, which is way more than I could afford.’
Robert revealed he paid £1,760 rent in his first year with the changing times and increasing prices forcing people out of the once thriving street.
‘There used to be an awful lot of different shops. I don’t remember seeing any empty shops when I first had the shop,’ he said.
‘So many shops have been shoehorned out because of the increasing prices and there are a lot of people who would want to move in but can’t afford it.’
Robert has been clearing out the shop for closure – with insult added to injury when Holloway Iliffe & Mitchell lumped the beleaguered store owner with a bill of £8,900 to cover dilapidations and repairs.
But Robert instructed builders himself, who said the repair work is only costing them half the amount. ‘There’s no dilapidations, it’s just a bit tired and needs redecorating,’ a builder on site said.
The builders also added that significant water ingress had led to leaks in the back areas of the shop. ‘We found significant water leaks in the waste pipe and sewer pipes which caused leaking into Robert’s shop,’ one added.
Despite the sad occasion, Robert said he was grateful for all the support he has received. ‘I’ve had a lot of help from friends and customers with clearing the shop,’ he said. ‘It’s been a real community effort and I really appreciate everyone’s help.’
Robert, who now plans to take a break, added: ‘I will take some time out to get things sorted and will then see what to do.’
Stuart Mitchell, partner of Holloway Iliffe & Mitchell, wrote in his letter to the shop owner in September that the firm wants £10,000 in rent a year.