Yoga World & Pesto notes in passing the sad demise of This ‘N’ That, the esoteric buying-and-selling shop on High Town Road that was Luton’s go-to for both buying and selling, and – if official police signage is anything to go by (and one has to suspect it is*) – a laundering mechanism for stolen goods. Ah well. The sign was probably the best thing about This ‘N’ That (We buy. We sell.) and mercifully, that remains.
Meanwhile, the grandly-named but perennially disappointing Grandior Furnishings has never to my knowledge been in the business of either buying or selling anything in at least the last six years. Permanently closed; permanently full of junk (there might be some interesting things in there, but who can tell?). Presumably the owner of Grandior is unaware of the convenient storage rental available just round the corner at Lok n’ Store. Does he not realise that the rest of us have to walk past his dusty, unloved shopfront every day?
You’ll say I’m being mean, but there’s a wider issue at stake here. In something akin to what is known as the ‘broken windows theory‘, the existence of even one prominently long-term abandoned shopfront on High Town Road (let alone several!) does untold damage to the road’s fortunes as a whole, and contributes to an atmosphere of neglect and decline that in turn signals to others that anti-social behaviour will go unremarked and unchallenged in High Town. I think many people are unaware that High Town Road is a conservation area, placing a duty of care on shopkeepers to maintain and preserve both the fabric and character of the street.
Alongside the wilful quasi-abandonment of Grandior, there are a number of empty units, many in flagrant disrepair, and a number of other premises which give the impression of being wholly or nearly defunct: Waller, which I think is an upholstery business, does not give the impression of being a going concern, though there is evidence that it was open in 1999, an occasion of such momentousness that even the Queen dropped by.
The status of Lawnmower Services and Suppliers of Quality Machinery is not completely clear to me (but on closer inspection yesterday I see that it may be alive; I do own a lawnmower, but I’ve never needed to have it serviced); in any case, Lawnmower Services and Suppliers of Quality Machinery is substantially redeemed in my eyes by its cheery green façade and unnervingly precise approach to shop-naming; in this respect rivalling and even outgunning our friend, Wallpaper World & Paints.
As for Modesty Ventures, I never had high hopes (their approach to selling different kinds of meat was decidedly minimal: a number of chest freezers with handwritten signs sellotaped above each declaring, ‘CHICKEN’, ‘BEEF’, and so on), but to have taken satisfaction in their eventual closure would be immodest.
Aside from the shops which have been abandoned, neglected, or whose premises have now lain vacant, in some instances, for years, there any many others whose upkeep falls short of a decent standard, with peeling paintwork, crumbling plaster or general disrepair. None of this does anything to tempt newcomers, or indeed the many locals who would love to spend more time and money in High Town.
At least there are a few businesses working against the trend. A new café at 48a (which may be called Marjorie’s), at the corner of High Town Road and Duke Street looks highly promising; as does Shop 33, a new art shop of an as yet unimaginable kind.
Back In Time, selling antiques, kitsch and other memorabilia, also appears to be thriving in its way.
Finally, it seems right that we should end on a lighter, cheerier and indeed beerier note, and commend the unfailing welcome and real ales available at local watering-hole and High Town stalwart, The Bricklayers Arms. On this subject, we will certainly have more to say.
* This ‘N’ That update: We later learned that This ‘N’ That was an undercover police sting designed to catch criminals involved in the disposal of stolen goods.