Posts Tagged ‘The Strait’

Attrition of indie businesses on The Strait and Steep Hill

December 31, 2018

Walking up The Strait and Steep Hill, quite shocking the number of closed, failing or for sale independent businesses. More what one would expect in a run down town centre than what was once named only a few years ago the No 1 street in the country.

Why, what has caused this collapse?

One factor is the reliance on tourists. The tourist footfall has collapsed. The principle cause of this apart from maybe fewer tourists, is the bus that takes people from the High Street to Castle Hill, depriving them of an interesting walk, and for the local businesses loss of opportunist footfall.

Many running the businesses are clueless.

Christmas and New Year is when there are a lot of tourists milling around. And what do the local businesses do, they close. They will reopen in the New Year when it will be dead until Easter.

Lincoln Castle closed. The Tourist Information Office closed.

And the excuse for being closed. It is Christmas and New Year.

It would be better to be open, then take a well earned January break relaxing in Tenerife.

Coffee Bobbins closed over Christmas New Year rumoured For Sale.

Undrinkable coffee from Lincoln Tea and Coffee, tea tea pigs tea owned by India conglomerate Tata, Tetley under any other name, a recipe for disaster.

Modern Classics, a greasy spoon cafe with Mod memorabilia, closed a couple of years ago. Has remained empty ever since.

Lincolnshire Live, claimed a mystery it was closed. Not really, lack of customers. Maybe hacks should get out and about a bit more.

Bird’s Yard junk shop, rarely open, odd hours when it is open.

Vintage Clothes shop, rarely open no surprise it has closed.

Base Camp, an excellent coffee shop, closed over Christmas and New Year. No indication when open. It is for sale, maybe has already changed hands.

Bunty’s tea room, not open Christmas New Year. Former owner sold changed tack to distilling gin.

Harlequin Bookshop. An excellent bookshop or was. Now sitting derelict. The bookshop driven out of business by a greedy developer.

The shop below Harlequin Bookshop sitting empty and gutted.

Bookstop Cafe closed over Christmas and New Year.

Imperial Teas, excellent for tea, also coffee and chocolate, tea and coffee making paraphernalia. The rare exception open over Christmas and New Year, as a result a steady stream of customers. The other big difference, focus on quality and service, the staff and owners know their tea and coffee.

Pimento tea rooms. Once an excellent tea shop, served tea from Imperial Teas. New owners took over and destroyed within six months. Yet more new owners have taken over, but will remain closed until sometime in the New Year, thus missing the Christmas New Year trade. An unhelpful notice on the window tells passers by to check social media for when open, but looks no time soon.

Widow Cullens Well Closed. Premises gutted.

The Old Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar, previous tea shop closed and gutted. Fake cheddar cheese, tea pigs, Stokes coffee. How long will it survive?

If pass through into Bailagate, Bailgate Deli serving undrinkable coffee supplied by Lincoln Tea and Coffee illustrating why we need a latte levy. Customers sat outside drinking from takeaway cups. Not open part of the Christmas New Year season or closed early.

Pass through Bailgate to Coffee by the Arch, was for sale, sale agreed, buyer pulled a dirty trick, offered half the agreed price as contracts were due to be signed.

Down in the town centre, Sincil Street has fared even worse. Once, busier than the High Street between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon. A street lined with indie businesses in Victorian buildings, trashed by the local council in bed with the local Coop.

Each time a local businesses collapses, there is less reason to visit a street, more businesses collapse, a domino effect. And this collapse can destroy a street, as we have seen in Sincil Street and are now starting to see in The Strait and on Steep Hill.

It does not have to be, poor town centre planning, lack of understanding of how local economies function, clueless individuals.

Internet and on-line shopping get the blame.

It is not why High Street chains are failing, they are failing due to piss-poor service. Their answer to on-line, cut service, treat customers with contempt, and enter a death spiral.

We have seen HMV collapse, the first casualty of the New Year. And yet indie record stores, for example Ben’s Records in Guildford, Resident in North Laine in Brighton, are doing well.

But, as one young lady running a business on Steep Hill told me, she never enters a shop, buys everything on-line, she added the same was true of all her friends.

Indy businesses cannot compete on price, they can only remain in business on quality and service, something many on The Strait and Steep Hill fail to comprehend, and thus do not remain in business for long.

If you open a coffee shop serving poor quality coffee worse than the corporate chains, cut corners, buy cheap catering supply coffee, do not invest in equipment or people, open a cheese shop selling poor quality cheese will find in the Coop, are rarely open or keep irregular hours, then on hiding to nothing and will not survive for long, and will join the 80% of businesses that fail within their first 18 months.

It does not though have to be. North Laine in Brighton, three long streets similar to Sincil Street, side streets, quirky indie businesses, bookshops, coffee shops, fashion shops, music shops, little restaurants, always busy, not a chain in sight.

Indie businesses provide a sense of place, they recycle money within a local economy, employ people, but no help or support from local council.

Lunch at The Cheese Society

December 31, 2018

Today was a weird day.  Friday before Christmas Lincoln was gridlocked, Christmas Eve the town centre full of drunks, today no traffic, the roads empty, though the town centre was busy.

New Year Sales in full swing, plenty of people about, and yet I passed at least half a dozen or more eating places, every single one closed.

County Restaurant closed, a little vegetarian restaurant I thought I would try closed until 7 January.

The Cheese Society is somewhere I often buy cheese, but I have never had lunch, it is always busy when I pass by.

Today was no exception, it was busy, whether because many places closed or the norm I do not know.

I was in luck, I found a seat at the long shared table.

I ordered avocado on sourdough toast.

Apart from initial disappointment the toast was cold it was excellent.

Sourdough ask, and no one knows what it is.

The latest edition of Ambrosia, issue 5 the San Francisco Bay edition, has an interesting article on sourdough bakeries in the area.

Sourdough is made with wild yeast not cultivated yeast.

I did not order a dessert, but what was served to my neighbours looked mouth watering delicious.  As did what I assumed was the cheese platter.

Something I had not seen before, a metal contraption sitting over candles, the heat used to melt the cheese. Though I think I would prefer not to melt.

The one thing I noticed, the love and care, everything freshly prepared, served with grace, not dumped on the plate, no one cares, as would find in too many places.

Interesting reading material on the end of the shared table. 

They say print is dead, the rubbish yes, but there is now a new generation of high quality print magazines, though often more like volumes of softback large format books, high quality articles, stunning imagery. 

I suggested they add to their collection, Ambrosia, Om Nom, Standart and Drift.

For anyone looking to buy cheese, I would highly recommend The Cheese Society, real cheese, unpasteurised milk, cheese with character and flavour, not what passes as cheese in a supermarket.

The Cheese Society is located at the bottom of The Strait, at the top of the High Street a little way off to the left if walking uphill.

Coffee Bobbins

April 4, 2018

Coffee Bobbins an award winning coffee shop opened a year ago Easter at the bottom of The Strait.

I must be a glutton for punishment, award winning yes but the award by Good Taste Lincolnshire, compounded by the fact they serve tea pigs and coffee supplied by Lincoln Tea and Coffee.

In their defence Coffee Bobbins may say we are a cake shop, and it is true a display of scrumptious looking cakes, though limited choice and I did not try. They do though call themselves a coffee shop not a cake shop, and I was there to try their coffee.

When I see a coffee or tea shop displaying tea pigs it immediately tells me they are clueless on tea.

The coffee supplied by Lincoln Tea and Coffee again not a good sign as it is not good coffee. I have tried before at Bailgate Deli. It was not good. When I asked to look at the beans I found to be cheap over-roasted coffee with defective beans and a very unpleasant aroma.

The same Brazilian blend that Lincoln Tea and Coffee claim they supply as an exclusive blend for Bailgate Deli, a speciality coffee shop. Not then exclusive, neither is Bailgate Deli a speciality coffee shop, if it was, it would employ skilled baristas and source better quality coffee beans. Not that Bailgate Deli has ever claimed to be a speciality coffee shop, they are a deli specialising in vegan food.

Lincoln Tea and Coffee claim their beans are fresh. They do not roast, merely buy and bag and on the bags no roast date thus no way of knowing how fresh.

The decor is reasonable, though lacking in ambience.

The entrance very badly designed, and forced to push past people blocking the way.

My coffee not good, too hot, chocolate dumped on top.

I asked for a coffee without chocolate. It was not good either, again scalding hot and undrinkable. After one sip I left it.

I asked for water. I am used to Athens, water is always brought without asking or is on the counter.

Toilets are out the back in a yard. Not good if raining.

If as appears, Coffee Bobbins care about their cakes, then why not care about the coffee? I can visit a chain if I want to drink bad coffee, Costa or tax dodging Starbucks or Caffé Nero. And the price not cheap, at £2-80 expect quality coffee.

They also need to employ skilled baristas. Though the best barista would be hard pushed to make a decent cup of coffee with the beans they are using no matter how hard they tried.

There is absolutely no excuse for this. If they have not a clue on coffee, begs the question why open a coffee shop, but if not a clue, then pick up a copy of The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide where will find listed speciality coffee shops and coffee roasteries. A hint, try 200 degrees, or better still Hasbean or Dark Woods.

It is commendable to buy local, but never at the expense of quality. And how local is local, Hasbean and Dark Woods are regional.

Similarly if they are serious about tea cannot get more local than Imperial Tea half way up Steep Hill, which is served in Pimento Tea Rooms.

The one good point was the two girls serving, polite, pleasant, helpful, and in conversation knowledgeable about coffee.

Cappuccino from The Little Tractor Coffee Shop

August 21, 2017

The Little Bicycle Coffee Shop aka Wheelys no more, welcome The Little Tractor Coffee Shop.

On Friday walking up Steep Hill, I noticed Bird’s Yard at the bottom of Steep Hill had a sign advertising freshly roasted coffee.

Today, curious, on my way up Steep Hill, I popped in Bird’s Yard.

The Little Bicycle Coffee Shop aka Wheelys no more, welcome The Little Tractor Coffee Shop.

Located in a corner in a shop selling junk, out the back a delightful little Secret Garden. Excellent locally roasted coffee beans. Today from Kenya. A skilled barista Mathew brewing the coffee.

I stopped on my way down and had a cappuccino.

A pity paper cups. Hopefully will have china, and if pour over coffee added, glassware.

That was morning, a quick cappuccino on my way back down Steep Hill, no way doing it justice as I was on my way to lunch.

Later, after lunch, I decided to pop back and have a more relaxed cappuccino sitting in the Secret Garden out the back.

This is a definite addition to the Lincoln coffee scene if you appreciate quality coffee.  The experience enhanced by the quirky surroundings.

Very much as would expect from coffee shops in North Laine in Brighton.

Snowy morning The Strait and Steep Hill

January 15, 2013
The Strait and Lincoln Cathedral

The Strait and Lincoln Cathedral

Last week it was a misty morning climbing The Strait and Steep Hill. This morning snow and I did wonder would I make it up, or back down. Luckily the snow had partially cleared and so it was possible.

On the way back down I called in Readers Rest to say goodbye, as after 30 years closing.

Misty morning The Strait and Steep Hill

January 10, 2013
Steep Hill in the mist

Steep Hill in the mist

Steep Hill in the mist

Steep Hill in the mist

Steep Hill in the mist

Steep Hill in the mist

Very foggy this morning.

Walking up the Strait and Steep Hill, very misty, very atmospheric, the stuff of a Victorian melodrama, which explains why many such dramas have been filmed here.

The towers of Lincoln Cathedral were shrouded in mist, as was the entrance and walls of Lincoln Castle.

Westgate, which follows the walls of the castle, freezing cold fog.

Walking back down, the sun came out for a brief period, but not for long, back came the mist.

Oliver’s coffee shop

January 3, 2013
Olibers coffee shop in The Strait

Olibers coffee shop in The Strait

Oliver’s coffee shop in The Strait, whenever I have passed by has been empty. Today was no exception.

Bare scrubbed tables, attractively done out, but it lacks warmth.

I was served by a nine-year-old waitress. I ordered tea.

Chatting to the nine-year-old (she said she was ten in a few days time), I asked her if the cakes were home made. She said yes, and that she had made the chocolate cakes. I drew to her attention no cakes on display. She drew my attention to the sign on the wall that said the cakes on offer. I said yes but having delicious looking cakes on display tempts one to eat them.

I was earlier in Stokes tea shop on the High Bridge and they had the most delicious home made cakes on display. Very tempting.

I told my new found friend of NeverSeconds. She was quite interested and said she would look it up.

I asked the attractive blonde behind the counter who seemed to be in charge of the coffee, where it was sourced from and was it fair trade? She apologised for not knowing as she was new and learning. She said the coffee was not Stokes and did not know the coffee fair trade or not. There was no sign to say where the coffee was sourced from or if it was fair trade.

The tea was cheap tea found in a café.

As I left, a few people walked in. I walked up The Strait and Steep Hill. When I passed by on my way down, now gone midday, lunchtime, the place was empty.