Independent Highgate newsagents to close on Christmas Eve due to rent hike

Raj Kara-Rajani fears he will have to close his shop after 30 years. Picture: Polly Hancock

Raj Kara-Rajani fears he will have to close his shop after 30 years. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

An independent newsagents which has served Highgate Village for more than 30 years is to close on Christmas Eve after a £50,000 rent hike.

The Corner Shop in Highgate High Street has been threatened with closure for nearly a decade but the latest rent review has proved to be the final nail in the shop’s coffin.

Owner Raj Kara-Rajani, 65, said he was “devastated”.

“It has been my life,” he said. “I’m going out with lots of debt because over the last four years, I’ve been dipping into my own pocket to keep the shop going.”

Mr Kara-Rajani took the decision to close the shop after his landlords nearly doubled his rent from £67,000 a year to £117,000.

The hike would mean he would also have to pay higher business rates of £45,000 a year – £10,000 more than he is paying now.

He said competitive chain supermarkets are partly to blame for the steady decline in customers he has seen over the last few years.

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He said: “At the moment, 80 to 90 per cent of people’s shopping is done in supermarkets and then if there’s an item they couldn’t buy there, they use this shop.

‘‘But my overheads are higher than those of Tesco and Sainsbury’s, so it’s impossible for us to keep going.

“But it’s a combination of everything, it’s not just Tesco and Sainsbury’s.”

He has thanked his customers for shopping with him over the last 30 years.

“I have some very loyal customers,” he said. “All I can do is apologise to them, I feel I have let them down.”

Property consultants Gilmartin Ley, which represents the shop’s landlords, declined to comment.

The news of The Corner Shop’s closure comes as the owner of Highgate Village institution Le Chocolatier chocolate shop announces his retirement.

Robert Sinfield, 63, has put the shop in Highgate High Street up for sale but has promised customers that a buyer would continue to run the shop as a chocolate specialist.

“I always said I would go in 2017 so that’s why I am selling it now as it can take a couple of years,” explained Mr Sinfield, who has run Le Chocolatier for 17 years.

“I don’t want to hang on as the older you get, the less energy you have.

“I’ve been very happy here, and the business is very sound. I will miss the customer contact.”