BOSSES at a village shop which closed suddenly in Hardwicke this week said they battled to keep it going in the face of ‘extortionate’ rents.
The convenience store and post office, on Elmgrove Road East, shut after months of bare shelves and problems paying staff.
Store boss Ravi Shetra, from retailers Heritage Madison, hit out at what he claims was an artificially high rental price of £38,000-per-year.
The firm struggled to stock the shelves as it battled to keep up with rent payments.
He said: “The rent was £38,000-per-year – you tell me how we were supposed to survive? The shop was not even breaking even.
“They strangled us out. We were promised the property in July and we had visions of making a bigger post office.
“We did what we could to keep it going but we have lost a lot of money and we can’t afford to keep it going. We couldn’t even afford to stock the shelves.
“We are in a financial mess. We have got nothing to put back into it.
“The staff have been incredible and they have done their best.”
Mike Reardon, whose pension fund is the leaseholder, said: “The rent is set at what it is and the company had ample opportunity to bail out but they didn’t. They went into it knowing the costs.
“They still own a lot of money to the pension fund.”
It comes as a Gloucester businessman, who is said to run several other stores in the city, expressed an interest in taking the store on.
He will potentially be competing with One Stop Shop, who are also considering taking on the premises.
Hardwicke parish councillor David Mossman, who has been co-ordinating community efforts to get the store back open, said: “£38,000-per-year does seem like an awful lot of money for a small shop like that and hopefully anyone interested taking it on will be able to negotiate a better rate.
“I am supporting all the efforts to try and get the store back open for the people of Hardwicke who rely on it so badly.”
The Post Office has confirmed it is still committed to running a branch in Hardwicke. A spokeswoman said: “We apologise to customers for any inconvenience caused by the temporary closure.
“We are committed to maintaining services for customers in the area and will be working hard to restore services as quickly as possible.”