Our volunteer Chiara met Parm, owner and manager of a popular shop in Egham High Street: Egham Essentials.
I was curious to know this shop’s owner as the shop has the reputation to be very popular in the area. They sell very common items that everyone needs; from families to students, from the elderly to younger shoppers. They have the chance to see and get to know many different people and so, have an interesting view of the whole population of the area. Parm is a young boy, very funny and gentle. When I arrived in his shop he invites me to go to a café for our chat, and offered me something to drink. Our meeting, outside on the High Street pavement, is sometimes disturbed by people’s voices or the noise of planes, but his kindness makes it still enjoyable.
“I think this is a very good idea what you are doing, it’s really amazing to know our history, and I try to do as much as I can to help. We have been here 7/8 years. We have noticed some changes, not big changes, just small. The landscape is still the same. Maybe the back has changed a bit but not the high street where we are.
We have had Egham Essentials for 8 years. Before it was a travel agent called “TUI” Thomsons’ travel agent. We had to renovate the whole shop because it was a different type of business, so we had to suit the site for a retail shop. It was not in a bad shape but it was a different type of use. I don’t know who the owner was; they are a big chain.
We feel the difference between when the university is closed and when it is open. We also change according to the time of the year. When the university opens in September, for example, we sell more items for the house because they take an accommodation so they need more of this stuff. So we get prepared for that. Maybe after 2 or 3 weeks we concentrate on stationary. And then they have parties, we try to get prepared for that as well, and so on…. Because we are a very small shop (and we call ourselves essentials) we try to keep concentrating, we’re never the same. We constantly change the display. University is definitely brilliant for business because it not only helps us, but also lots of other places. That brings people over here. Students come here to have their lunch or just for a walk. It’s always a help… It’s definitely positive. It also creates work, so many people are employed thanks to that. Of course it would have affected the property prices but there are too many positive effects than just property prices. They bring work and make the High Street more vibrant. I know, for instance, that there are many places where the high street is closing down because there are not enough people there, and there is no point to have the shops anymore. But here students make the town vibrant, this helps employment and of course it makes Egham popular, so I think there are more benefits than negatives. More pros than cons.
I wouldn’t change Egham. I actually enjoy being here. It’s good to see so many new people, different people from different nationalities. It’s a pleasure to be here. I love it.
There is a very good relationship with my shop-neighbours. We look after each other as much as we can. For example, we had a problem in our shop the other day, somebody tried to give us a fake £20 note, so we went around and advised others to be careful. If there is anything else to help each other we do it, if we notice at the back of the shop something suspicious we ask them or let them know that something was going on. There is a good sense of community, because we’ve been here for a long time, so we all know each other and we see each other regularly.
I would ask [the Council] for some exemption, because cars are not allowed here [the High Street], so maybe if they do some exemptions for delivery lorries that would help. We have big problems with deliveries because they have to do it from the back of the store, and it’s just inconvenient for us as the lorries cannot come closer, it’s how the building is designed. There must be a reason why the High Street is pedestrianised, but if there are some hours exemptions for the deliveries that would be good…”.
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)