I am all too often asked about the large number of vacant shop units in the town centre. I tell them Farnham is in a far better position than many other towns and cities and it isn’t as bad as it appears; there is a lot going on in the background.
Curchod & Co completed their quarterly vacancy review and gave me a copy of their spreadsheet report last week. It records 14 vacant shops, a vacancy rate of just over nine per cent but it isn’t that simple. The contents of the report make confusing reading, not because of the way in which it’s is written or presented but because of what is going on. Let me try to clarify that.
The vacancy percentage is determined by dividing the number of unoccupied shops by the total number included within the area, a map of which I have published before. So, shops which are being fitted out by new tenants are excluded as are shops which are occupied but are on the market. The most obvious that springs to mind is Unit 5A Lion & Lamb Yard occupied by Luxury Faux Flowers.
Shops withdrawn from market
In the past week or two particularly, a number of retail properties have been withdrawn from the market, the most notable being the former HSBC bank building in The Borough, (under offer if you recall), and the former Sharps Furniture shop in West Street. These are vacant.
The Herald’s offices are empty, awaiting refurbishment, and are not on the market. The Herald staff are working out of The Old Court House in Union Road.
The former Funky Monkey unit in Cambridge Place has been empty for literally years. The London agents have an advertising poster in the window but aren’t actively trying to let it. I have heard they are waiting for, yes, you guessed, Brightwells to come ‘on line’. Another unit included is the former post office. This I don’t believe is currently on the market.
The actual vacancy rate
Looking at the number of shop vacancies afresh, I think the vacancy rate is nearer six per cent if shops not on the market are omitted. Several new businesses are opening soon, especially in the Lion and Lamb Yard.
I now have some more details of the new Italian deli and restaurant, Valentino’s, opening in unit 17 in the Lion & Lamb Yard. I had a chat with the business owner and manager Albert Recica last week. He owns the El Castello in Fleet.
Asked what he was bringing to Farnham he had no hesitation in telling me it was authentic Italian food and drink, everything home cooked, with ingredients sourced from northern Italy.
Albert is on track to open the restaurant towards the middle of August or before the beginning of September.
You need to look at the internal decorations on the first floor. The restaurant will have some 60 covers inside and ten to 15 outside in the yard.
Serving breakfasts, brunches and dinners, the restaurant will be a fantastic addition to an increasing number of places to eat in Lion & Lamb Yard, really energising the night life the yard offers. The Lion and Lamb Yard is going to give Brightwells a run for its money.
Harris + Hoole
Harris + Hoole’s coffee shop on West Street should be open or opening imminently.
Wet fish shop
I have tried contacting George Dudman, the owner of the new wet fish shop, the Surrey Seafood Emporium, without success. The shop replaces Downing Street’s Charters estate agents. Facebook postings indicate the shop should be opening some time this month.
Rt Nails & Beauty
Works are taking place in the former Wood Floors of Farnham shop at 102 West Street. The Rt Nails & Beauty business owner hasn’t responded to my text but I would guess they will be opening this month, all being well.
Former NatWest Bank
The agent’s website indicates the bank building is under offer. Unfortunately, no communication from the London agents.
Other shops on the market
London agents Green & Partners have passed on the marketing of number 16 West Street, the former Carphone Warehouse shop, to local agents Derwent Hillside. Several viewings have already taken place and two offers are being considered by the owners.
I was contacted by Abdul Lotif at the Barn Bistro last week. They have upped their game having arrived and opened in Lion & Lamb Way in February.
The whole ambiance of the space has changed. They now have a licence to serve alcohol having found many of their customers preferred being able to buy their wine in the restaurant.
Abdul tells me they have changed the emphasis of the experience, so the lunch service has a different ‘feel’ from the evening service.
The menu has changed but Abdul says they still use the freshest and finest ingredients available.
One change I spotted immediately were the starched white table clothes and they lift the space.
A number of people have told me both food and service have been really good before, so now they should be even better.
To launch the transformation there is a special offer of a free bottle of wine when booking via the website at www.thebarnbistro.co.uk and taking along a printed version of the special offer flyer.
I am working on a review of the eateries in the town centre and will hopefully report in the coming weeks.