When Brixton Blog interviewed Lori Gashient in January, he reported that business at the new ‘Lori’s Frothy Coffee Bar’ (in the Brixton Central Stop Shop) had been slow. We caught up with him now that summer has come and after the rumours that Starbucks have signed a lease in a unit by the station. Here he is in his own words:
“Business hasn’t been very good, but it’s going OK. I think it takes a while for a food and drink business to get going – people put the stuff in their stomachs so they have to be more confident about it. I will stay open, but the summer will be quiet because people don’t want hot drinks like coffee as much. I would do cold coffee, but I’d need a sink to prepare that. Or I’d like to sell slush puppies. My wife is from Brazil so we might sell some Brazilian food too.
I had to stop selling the popcorn, because it wasn’t selling and the people in the offices upstairs complained about the smell!”
Diana Godwin with the traders' petition at her stall on Pope's Rd
Market traders have complained that the closure of the Pope’s Road Car Park has drastically cut business since Christmas, just when they thought they were emerging from the recession. The Pope’s Rd carpark was closed by Lambeth Council on December 19 for health and safety reasons.
A council press release
in December said that a structural survey had found problems in the concrete walls and ceilings. It was scheduled to reopen in mid-February, but it is now uncertain how long it will have to stay closed.
The carpark served as an important facility for vehicle users coming to Brixton Market. Diana Godwin, whose family runs a fruit and veg stall on Pope’s Rd, said, “on the weekend, trade is now probably down by about a third. Our customers are parking as far away as Shakespeare Rd and up past Tescos on Acre Lane. A lot of my customers who have signed the petition, especially my Saturday customers, are Croydon people who were probably born in Brixton and still come to shop here. They closed the carpark four days prior to Christmas with no warning to us or the general public and no alternative.”
At a meeting last week, says Godwin, the council stated it would not be able to offer help with alternative parking until mid-May. Godwin and other Brixton traders have set up a petition
to protest against the closure and to ask for more immediate help. “We’re asking for them not to leave it for six months. Already two traders in this road have closed since Christmas. Whether it’s got something to do with the carpark, I couldn’t say, but I think it played a part.” The Market Trader’s Federation are proposing that the council establish an alternative carpark on the wasteland just behind the market in Codharbour Lane.
I am waiting on a comment from Lambeth Council, but you can read their statement in the South London Press here
Lorient Gashi in his coffee booth
In early January, a coffee booth appeared in the Brixton Central Stop shop next to McDonalds, selling cheap coffee to cold commuters. I have been walking past Lorient Gashi every morning and wondering about his stall. As it turns out, Gashi has been in Brixton a while – on the other side of the road with the Brixton Bazaar food market every weekend. When that was closed down at the end of last year, he decided to move Lori’s Frothy Coffee Bar into the Central Stop. “I stayed here because the people are alright. There’s trouble here and there, but it doesn’t affect us as traders.” Brixton residents are apparently so stuck in their ways that he has had to build up a new clientele after switching sides. “At the moment I don’t have many customers, because I’m new and not properly advertised in this booth. Maybe I’ll put a nice sign up.” The coffee is not out of this world, but it is a good price (a regular latte is £1.60). “I try to be affordable for everybody”, he says. Lori is so well-meaning that he will prove a welcome addition to many a Brixtonian morning. Asked what one thing he would say to sell his coffee, he replies, “people are just welcome to come here, you know?”