Brixton boom is threat to shops

Tony Benest: co-owner of Brixton Wholefoods.
Tony Benest: Co-owner of Brixton Wholefoods

The shocking rent rises in central Brixton have put yet another local institution in jeopardy.

Brixton Wholefoods, a fixture on Atlantic Road for nearly 40 years, has had its rent increased by £17,000 to £37,000 a year.

It is the latest in a long line of businesses threatened by landlords demanding ever higher rents.

Landlords Threshold Land & Estates Limited are based in leafy Hampton Wick near the Thames in Surrey.

Hilary Waterfield started the shop 38 years ago when it was located across the road in what is now the Lounge. Tony Benest, who co-owns the shop with Hilary, has been serving customers there for 35 years.

“We had a massive rent rise and considered closing down,” says Hilary. “But we decided to rise to the challenge. Our shop has always been one of the hubs of the Brixton community and this was the main reason we were determined to keep it going.

“I tend to feel we have been carried into this tide of change and we have very little influence.

“It was very different in the days that our property was owned by Lambeth council and we felt we had some support from our landlords. But when they sold up to the present owners that all changed.

“We have no support at all. All financial responsibility is passed on to us. It is, all about money now, not about our lovely Brixton community.”

Tony added “We are just about coping. I just wonder what I’d do if I gave it up.

“Brixton has a reputation as a boom town. Landlords reckon if the older shops and traders are priced out, there’ll be plenty queuing up to get it.”

“A lot of our old customers have decanted to Croydon and Thornton Heath and so don’t come in every day. The gentrifiers don’t spend on food, as they eat out a lot. We do still have a lot of students coming in though and our herbs and spices are our big draw.”

Inside Brixton Wholefoods which was set up 38 years ago.

On top of the rent rise, rates are expected to increase from next April to £7,000.

Another much loved favourite on Atlantic Road, Kaff Bar closed in 2015 after its rent tripled. The premises are now occupied by a burger chain.

Kaff owner Steven Ross told the Brixton Blog at the time: “I’ve been fighting this for a year and it’s impossible. They weren’t willing to negotiate and we cannot afford tripled rents.”

“All I can say is we have to start to fight so that this doesn’t happen to others: small businesses are being priced out of the area, just like in the housing market.”

The list of businesses forced to close or relocate continues to grow, either because of rents or redevelopment. Even some of the newer chain restaurants and other retailers have found the market tough and have been shortlived or are considering their presence in Brixton.

The Virgin Media shop on Brixton Road was recently advertised for rent at £160,000 by surveyors Williams, Gunter, Hardwick and appears to have been successfully let.

Kashmir Butchers on Electric Avenue, recently restored, is on the market at just shy of £60,000 a year. The neighbouring, unrestored shop is offered for £39,000.


  1. Shop (where Lounge is) was started by Terry to aid refugees during Bangladesh war. At one point, the then landlords Lambeth Council evicted them but persons unknown re-squatted the store which was re-opened next day.

  2. I shop at Brixton Wholefoods a fair bit and every time I’ve been in I’ve been astounded by how unfriendly the service in. Maybe if they embraced their new customers a little more they’d be a little more successful. Saying that the new wave of Brixton residents only eat out is utter bullsh*t. Have they not noticed the ‘clean eating’ trend? Spirulina is more expensive than platinum ounce for ounce. Maybe they should be a little more business savvy and cash in rather moaning?

  3. this is so BAD!!!! What could the Labour council in lambeth could have done differently? Let’s ask them questions. Why did they sell? Where was the pressure coming from? What could they have done differently? Brixton will become one big sanitized, boooooring place with horrible chain shops. I love this shop….i live on the same road and i go in there at least twice a week.

  4. solidarity !!!


    Hex in the Park – Hexing Central London Ghost Homes On Halloween

    On Tuesday 31st October 2017 12 noon, witches are forming a procession, hexing the sites of two proposed ‘City fringe’ housing developments that threaten to overshadow popular local parks. A magic ritual will be performed at St Luke’s Gardens EC1V3PQ at 12.15 to protect the park, trees and sunlight and then a hex to protest for a redesign of the proposed over-development of the St. Luke’s Area, the densest populated area in the UK. The current Finsbury Leisure Centre building (1 Norman St, London EC1V 3PU) is proposed to be replaced with an over-scaled building to be called St Luke’s Mansions and a reduced public leisure facility which does not meet future needs of the area. This proposed building will overshadow Burnhill House, jeopardising social housing residents into fuel poverty. The local community including stakeholders of the London Symphony Orchestra and surrounding neighbours are also against the current area design which will also plunge St Luke’s Gardens into darkness for over half of the year.

    The witches will then move on to the west side of Fortune Street Park where Taylor Wimpey have planning permission to replace Bernard Morgan House (43, Golden Lane, London, EC1Y 0RS) with an over-scaled 10-storey building. Rites will be performed at the Golden Lane end of Fortune Street Park to protect both its trees and the children who attend two local schools (Richard Cloudesley and Prior Weston) whose playgrounds and class rooms will be cast into darkness if Taylor Wimpey build The Denizen on Golden Lane. The Denizen is already being marketed and sold off-plan to non-dom foreign investors in places like Hong Kong.

    Witches Against Real-Estate say: “We need homes for local people that won’t overshadow our parks and schools, not buy to leave properties being sold to speculators who’ll neither live in them nor rent them out. It is unusual for us to hex anything but we are doing this to protect the parks, trees, wildlife and children, who will suffer if these building go ahead as planned.”

    Please sign our petition !

    Please tweet and pass on!

    BurnhillHouse (@BurnhillHouse) | Twitter

  5. Staggering rent prices: even for Atlantic Road, which let’s face it, is not a pretty site. Not too many alternatives to Whole Foods in Brixton, so perhaps their uniqueness will help them survive, hope so. I grew up around so called ‘leafy Hampton Wick’, it was a dump in those days, not considered leafy at all; but like all places, including Brixton, it has become popular in recent years due it’s proximity to the Thames and Kingston ( which was also a dump and still is mostly). Maybe people like leaves too, although bit of a nuissance this time of year. Everywhere has changed in my lifetime, mostly due to gentrification, with the changes causing property price rises like the ones written about here, turning previously decaying towns into popular destinations in the blink of an eye. You have to go further out of London really to find places that are unchanged with time; places out of the urban zone. it is tough, but change also brings opportunity, hopefully this shop can adapt it’s business model here and there – tweak it for what the new Brixton residents will buy; then hopefully they can enjoy prosperity for a while longer – god luck to them.

  6. Best shop in Brixton. Would love to know if there is anything we can do to help as well as shop there, of course.

Comments are closed.