Big response to Brixton Wholefoods’ appeal to save unique local resource

woman standing outside shop
Hilary Waterfield outside Brixton Wholefoods on its first ever Sunday opening last week

A crowdfunding appeal by Brixton Wholefoods on Atlantic Road, part of the local community for many decades, is off to a flying start.

It was launched to tackle the serious effects on the shop of Covid lockdowns and a big rent increase.

“This year we have seen our income drop to a level where we can no longer survive with the resources we have available to us,” the appeal says.

After only one day, it had raised more than £6,000 of its £20,000 target.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the community response to our appeal so far,” said proprietors Hilary Waterfield and Tony Benest.

“Thank you to everybody who has donated. After an incredibly difficult year it’s lifted our spirits.

“We’re going to be opening on Sunday from 11am to 4pm from this week. Come and in and say hello if you can.

“What we need, more than anything now, is for people to come back and shop with us.”

traditional shopfronts
Brixton Wholefoods at 59 Atlantic Road

The shop also suffered a recent break-in.

“We have had many ups and downs, but this one has hit us hard,” said Hilary Waterfield .

“It is very important to us that we can continue, both as a retailer of unusual and hard-to-get items, and as an employer, providing employment for up to a dozen local people.

“We have been a rock in the sea of change and we believe that, with continued hard work and dedication, and the support of our loyal customers and the wider community, we can bring the shop back to its former strength.”

You can contribute here

The aim of the crowdfunder is to raise the capital to invest in enough stock to completely fill Brixton Wholefoods’ shelves again “and to get back to the supply and demand policy that we have always adhered to”.

“Any donation, no matter how small or big, will be received with gratitude and we give you a promise that we will put your donations to good use to secure the future of Brixton Wholefoods,” Hilary and Tony said.

tabloid newspaper front page
Brixton Bugle featured Brixton Wholefood’s rent rise

“We hope you believe in us and in the need to keep independent retailers trading on the high street.”

The shop at 59 Atlantic Road offers a very wide of specialised organic whole and health foods – around 300 herbs and spices can be found there – as well as bread and other baked goods.

Its prices, as far as Hilary can ascertain, are lower than other South London health food shops.

Brixton Wholefoods’ troubles began before lockdown with the imposition of a large rent increase in 2016 as owners cashed in on Brixton’s property boom.

While Brixton Wholefoods did get some cash aid from Lambeth council, that cash will be subject to Corporation Tax.

Hilary’s greatest concern is the shop’s staff – many of them have worked there for a long time.

She thinks many people have become used to buying online and that supermarkets are now stocking broader ranges of items that were once only available in shops like Brixton Wholefoods.

The shop grew out of a 70s squat and a fundraising venture to aid people in Bangladesh.

Hilary and Tony, who have run it since those times, had plans to retire early next year and pass the shop on to preserve the jobs of its staff.