We asked the owners of local businesses what they think about being part of the community in the Seven Dials / West Hill area. Unsurprisingly, most of them yearn for an improvement in the parking situation and an overwhelming percentage think that business rates could be much fairer. Every one of the businesses love the community in which they are based. Part 1 below, Parts 2 and 3 follow in future issues. Meanwhile, please write to The Whistler and let us know what you like most about the businesses in this area and your improvement suggestions.
The Almond Tree Michela and Claudio are a couple and they run the café together. They have been here since 2013 and they like the area because “it’s quite lively but not as chaotic and busy as the North Laine” where Claudio worked before. “You get to know pretty much all your neighbours and people working in the area”. What they like most about the Dials is the “nice variety of independent businesses, finding many things here and being a quick walk from the town centre.” Improvement suggestion: traffic-free days and street events could bring more people up the hill.
Ayten Gasson Lingerie is owned by Ayten Roberts, and her second-in-command is Holly Grace Evans. They are coming up to their first birthday, having moved into the new development on Bath Street in May 2016. “Seven Dials has a wonderful community feel and I enjoy being surrounded by other independently owned businesses”. Ayten likes the mix of independent businesses, many of the shops run by makers, like herself. Improvement suggestion: parking.
RW Berry & Son Chris and Tom Berry are the father and son team who own this venerable institution, which has been based at the Seven Dials for 50 plus years. “The Seven Dials had a lot of residential capacity and was a nice sleepy friendly area in those days, 1963!” Chris likes the residents, the accessibility to the parks, schools, the sea, and all the shops. He thinks that there’s a nice balance between commerce and the environment.
Bright News Vinod and Meena Mashru established their convenience shop in West Hill on 18 February 1985. Meena came from Kenya and Vinod from Gujrat, India. They liked Brighton seafront, the town’s royal history, its railway connections, and opportunities for their children’s education. Improvement suggestion: stricter rules for leaving rubbish by the communal bins; Give Way signs in every street in West Hill; and speed breakers.
Chirag Newsagent has been owned by Lata and Bhupendra Patel for 24 years. They were first attracted to come to Brighton from London by the schools and university and they like their very friendly and loyal customers, as well as customers from all over the world who come to the station. Improvement suggestion: support local businesses by refusing planning permission for big supermarkets and brand name cafés.
The Den Barbershop Richard Harris has been here for 11 years since he moved from the Blue Moon hair salon in Pool Valley. His tiny shop at the top of North Road is small but perfectly formed and he likes running his business in this central area with lots of houses. When asked what he likes most about the area, he said, “The people.” Improvement suggestion: easier parking for residents.
Dragonfly @ Seven Dials has been in the Dials for 3 years. Owners Kath Sanders and Rebecca Byrne were looking for an area to provide locals with gifts without them having to traipse into the centre of Brighton. They like the busy, friendly community with its mix of businesses and families in the area. Improvement suggestion: free parking for half an hour at least!
Duke Of Wellington has been run by Monochrome, the pub cat, and his second-in-command Bertie Richardson-Burton since June 2014. Bertie came from The Black Jug in Horsham and before that, The Bell in Hove (now The Urchin). Bertie “wanted to take over a well-established business that needed a bit of TLC” and likes the “great community spirit, lovely quirky pubs and independent places to eat; friendly people and always something different from the mainstream.” Improvement suggestion: “We’re part of the community and I think all of us local traders try to make our contributions to the area with charity fundraising and events. We need to support each other though, and make good use of our local pubs and shops, otherwise we’ll miss them when they’re gone … and then it will be too late!”
The ‘Eddy’ Edinburgh Gemma Allison has been managing this pub for 5 years since she moved from the Iron Duke Hotel. She likes the community spirit in West Hill.
First Feet has been in the Seven Dials for 8 years under the management of Jacqui Levene, who was first attracted to the Seven Dials by the “sense of community and its nice, friendly area and nearby transport.” Jacqui most likes the “café culture, new shops, and the bohemian feel.” Improvement suggestion; better parking for customers.
Flour Pot Bakery is owned by Oliver Hyde and the newest (2 months old) Seven Dials business is managed by Drew Wright. “Oli has always been attracted to the area by its busy, diverse footfall” and likes “the friendly people, strong sense of community, and easy access to all areas of Brighton”.
The French Horn Neil Woodvine and Sandrine are a couple who run the pub. They were based in London and Paris before they were attracted to the Seven Dials and its little shops. They like the different shops, all close to each other and the fact that it feels like a little village. Improvement suggestion: have an event once a year where we could close the streets to cars, have music and business on the road.