Bharat Patel took over Leamys News in the early 1980s. He came from Kenya in 1966 like many others at the time. Before Nugent Terrace he had managed post offices in other parts of London, including in Blenheim Terrace with his brother-in-law. The premises were bought and sold through estate agents. The goodwill was important. Security was crucial, to the premises and for the safes which were needed. You were given training in the work – and had to pay for any mistakes that were subsequently made.
When Bharat wanted to set up on his own he had a choice of a place in St John’s Wood High Street or Leamys News in Nugent Terrace, and he chose the latter because it was a freehold property. He came with his wife and a daughter, (two came later) and his parents.
Bharat had experienced different customers all over London and he found the people here very pleasant and friendly. They gave the Patels a warm welcome. While managing a post office in earlier days for his brother-in-laws it was an interesting job, dealing not just with stamps and parcels but also with such things as pensions and licences. Unlike Leamy’s News, Bharat stayed open later in the evening, and during lunch and on Sundays.
Delivery of the newspapers is still an important part of the job with the morning round and the evening round. The council would send inspectors to make sure that the children delivering papers were of the right age. The Patels employed adults as well as teenagers and had 12 rounds, going as far as St John’s Wood Road. Of course many people nowadays read the papers online or have them delivered to their homes direct from the distributors. Bharat feels that the National Federation of Retail Newsagents do not do enough for people like him. The publishers and wholesalers should listen more. On one occasion Bharat phoned publishers and told them that the deliveries to his shop did not come in time for the paper to be sent out to the readers.
It was a real village when the Patels arrived with lots of people walking up the street and chatting in the shops. There was a good greengrocer and butcher and baker. The previous post office had closed when the proprietor took redundancy. There had been a campaign to keep it open, but there was a government policy to close some post offices. Local support from MPs and other public figures can help sometimes, but then often fades away later.
They were good days when people used to collect their pensions from the post office and then spent some money in the village, which helped the local economy. Leamys News had a much greater selection of sweets and chocolates before. Also they sold hardware, and more magazines and books, but supermarkets have eaten into that trade. Tesco have taken over the Europa shops in parts of north London and people like the Patels have taught them how to sell, staying open late and stocking what people want. Cigarettes are tricky to handle, as they have a limited profit margin, and tricky to sell with friends buying for underage customers, which is disastrous if discovered by the council.
Other Businesses in the Terrace
The pub, Heroes of Alma, which has closed now, was a friendly pub and was frequented by people who worked or performed at the Abbey Road Studios and other local places. Following an incident at the Corner Shop in November 2016 it is currently closed. At one time there was an informal agreement among the shopkeepers that they would not compete with each other by stocking similar items.
Amee Patel remembers the antique carpet shop when she arrived in Nugent Terrace as a child. They would put a rug over the step into the shop, and use the pavement as a demonstration area, throwing out the carpet there in front of the potential buyer. The chemist has always been in the same place and the cabinet maker is still there.
A Hub for the Terrace
Bharat’s wife sadly passed away, like his parents previously, and he himself has had a serious operation. He could not run the shop now without the help of daughters Amee and Sona, who go to the Cash and Carry and organise things when needed. The shop is still a friendly hub in Nugent Terrace and the customers who come in are known and welcomed.