Stokes & Johnson closes in Exmouth
By PGStrange | Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 21:48
STOKES & JOHNSON, Exmouth's only greengrocers, has closed, although there are hopes that it may re-open in the near future...
Stokes & Johnson in Exmouth's Magnolia Centre. The shop closed on 10 January but there are hopes that it may reopen soon
Passers-by look at the repossession notice on Stokes & Johnson's window
Happier days: Last year Stokes & Johnson and its neighbouring shop Porky Down broke out the bunting for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee
It's understood that the greengrocers, a mainstay in the town's Magnolia Centre, was "substantially" in arrears on its rent. The landlords say that they had "no option" other than to repossess the unit. However the owner of the business says she is currently negotiating with the landlords and hopes to continue the lease.
The greengrocers had been part of a national chain that went into administration. The Exmouth branch was saved when it was taken over independently in October 2010.
Rumours that the Exmouth shop was in difficulties started before Christmas. Supplies of fresh fruit and veg had become erratic, and staff were unsure of what the future might bring.
The shop closed suddenly on 10 January, with a repossession notice on the window from the landlords - the Trustees of the Norman Family Charitable Trust.
"My clients rely on rent to continue their charitable work," said Stephen Clegg of Everys solicitors, Exeter. "The rent on this property was very substantially in arrears, a situation which my clients could not allow to continue.
"Consequently my clients had no option other than to repossess the premises, which they did last week."
In a statement issued by the shop's owner Mrs Louise Stokes-Johnson, she confirmed that there had been problems over rent.
"There has been an issue with rent at the Stokes & Johnson in Exmouth," she said. "I am currently negotiating with the landlords regarding continuing the lease at Exmouth, so the lease at the moment as we see it, will continue."
There are fears that rotting produce that was left in the shop could be a health hazard. It's understood that complaints have been made to East Devon District Council about the smell and action may take place.
The landlords confirmed that stock was still in the unit.
"When my clients entered the premises, various items - including stock - were found," said Stephen Clegg. "These items do not belong to my clients. My clients are keen to stress that these items belong to Stokes & Johnson, who have been given ample oppportunity to remove them, and we will continue to give them the opportunity to do so."
Apart from issuing her brief statement, Mrs Stokes-Johnson declined to answer any further questions.
The closure means that Exmouth no longer has a dedicated, independent greengrocers in the town. The only large supplies of fresh fruit and veg in the town centre are in the supermarket chains.