As part of Stories from Egham High Street, this week Chiara has met Brian from Love Lunch, a sandwich bar placed at 176 Egham High Street.
When I first went to meet Brian at Love Lunch to propose an interview for our column I didn’t realise that that site was already known by the Museum. In Egham Museum’s archives, in fact, we have a beautiful old photo of The London Central Meat Co., a family butcher business which has been located exactly in this site for a long time between the late 19th and early 20th century.
When I explained to Brian about our project he seems enthusiastic, and immediately showed me a photo displayed on the bar’s wall that I didn’t notice before. It’s a photo of the Old London Central Meat Co. taken in front of the shop as it was at that time. He revealed to me that the owners of the site is still the Jarvis family who ran the butchers a long time ago and who donated him that photo. Outside the shop, on the front façade it is still clearly visible the original marble slab reporting the butcher’s sign.
I’m back to them after a week or so, and we sit on a table to chat. Interrupted a couple of times by clients, we managed to spend some time together to talk about his business, his site and Egham.
“We bought this shop in April 2016. It was already a sandwich bar called “Deli Rumbles” and it was a quite a successful one. The people who had it before us had it for about 18 months and before them, there were other people who had it for 10 years. Before then I think it was still a butcher. When we bought it, it took to us 5 weeks to refurbish it completely and we opened at the beginning of May 2016, so we’ve been opened now for 15 months. We are now building up the trade and this is a very slow process.
We are part of the business community and all the other businesses are very supportive. This is not a big High Street, it’s a small street so you just get to know all the different retailers. There are a few big chains, but there are still a few small independent businesses. We are now part of the local Chamber of Commerce and even if we’ve been open for 15 months we know that there are going to be many changes, even if we still don’t know of what kind. Everything looks good but we don’t know until it is completed, what type of new shops are going to open, or what type of people are coming into Egham. We don’t know. It was only after a few months of our shop’s opening that the council showed their plans.
When we opened we were prepared and quite realistic, so we knew that it was not going to be easy to take off, that we were not going to be busy from the first day, we didn’t think “we are going to make lots of money straight away”. We built that into our business plan. It is going to take time to get a good reputation. Obviously you get a good reputation by providing a good service and good products at a very good price. I think we are doing it right but it’s still surprising that some people walk in and say “we didn’t even know this was here”. It is a slow growth but we were prepared for it.
We thought that we were going to have lots of students. But we didn’t realise that the actual flow of students doesn’t pass by here. We don’t get many students, because what they want is cheap food and here it’s a bit expensive for them. So, when university is closed we really don’t miss it so much. People who come here to eat don’t mind spending an extra pound for a good sandwich rather than going to Tesco. That’s basically how it is. We have to find our little place in Egham. We need to build our customers, a little core of regular customers. Every single customer is valuable. If we have even just 50 customers but regulars, this is already enough to go on for us.
I live here too, I’ve been living in this area for 40 years. I feel that there is a sense of community. I’ve got to know the manager of the pub in front of us and his wife, the barbers next door, the fish & chip shop… although you don’t really get to know many tenants because they keep changing, so you can’t get to know all of them. Some of the other owners come here to buy lunch and we use their services too, such as the printing shop or the dry cleaner….like this you get to know people.
I think that Egham is a strange slip: students and older people, not many in-between people. It is hard to say if Egham is improving or getting worse. It will take time to understand”.
Follow us next week for the next story from Egham High Street….
(Header photograph: aerial view of the High Street, with thanks to the late local photographer, Fred Parkin)