THE owner of an antique furniture shop in Henley says he is closing the business due to a lack of support from the town council.
Nick Hough-Robbins, who runs Montpelier Interiors in Bell Street with his wife Belinda, said: “Henley doesn’t want businesses like us.”
The couple, who live in Christmas Common, opened the shop about 18 months ago but will close it for the last time at the end of trading next Saturday (April 16).
Mr Hough-Robbins, 53, said: “We made the decision about three months ago and we think we are going to move to Tetbury.
“We are not moving because the business hasn’t been successful, we have had the best year.
“But the town council has zero interest in promoting businesses and to me the thing that has really been disappointing was the lack of engagement.
“We found out that Henley was going to have a Christmas shopping evening by reading the Henley Standard — that was the first time we knew of it. This amplified the problem with the council that was already there.
“The Standard reported that the council said small businesses shouldn’t open during the evening because that would cause confusion, which didn’t make sense. We have a lot of customers and could have done something really nice.
“There was no dialogue and to me that showed the lack of engagement and care for the businesses in the town.”
Mr Hough-Robbins said that he used to see former town manager Helen Barnett regularly but only saw her successor Craig Buckby once in his 17 weeks in post. Mr Buckby resigned at the end of February and a replacement has not been appointed yet.
Mr Hough-Robbins said: “We’ve lived here for the past 25 years and our children went to school here. We opened the shop because we wanted to build a physical presence. We know people who have visited us or have moved to Henley say what a great place it is but it lacks a plan for the future. We love Henley but it seems to be going through a phase where it doesn’t know what it wants as a town and that is a shame.
“It has the potential to be a vibrant, exciting place but there’s this idea that there’s already enough business and tourism coming from the regatta and the Henley Festival. Are coffee shops and estate agents all that Henley can aspire to because that’s really sad if that is the case.”
Mr Hough-Robbins, a former chief data officer in the oil and gas industry, and his wife had been trading online from home for about 18 months before opening the shop in October 2020.
He said: “We decided to open a physical shop because we were doing really well online and a lot of people wanted to come and see the furniture. It was a passion and was enjoyable for us — we met some fantastic people.
“We would have stayed here for a long time if Henley had a plan for the future like other towns but we are not putting any more effort in the town if it’s not interested in us.”
Town clerk Sheridan Jacklin-Edward declined to comment.