Kew garden centre 'at heart of the village' forced to close after 22 years in shock eviction

Dan Slack, 49, in Kew
-Credit: (Image: Charlotte Lillywhite)

A beloved garden centre that has traded next to Kew Gardens for 22 years has been forced to shut after the owner was evicted by the landlord of the premises. Daniel Slack, 49, said he discovered the locks on The Kew Gardener had been changed and the lease terminated, claiming it was done without warning, on May 5.

Mr Slack told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) his landlord terminated the lease after he fell behind on rent by around three months, despite offering to pay the arrears. The dad-of-two, who first came to Kew 30 years ago to study at Kew Gardens, said: "It was a shock because it was like someone dying almost, it's like a bereavement. It was such a part of your life, I spent all my waking hours there basically… I'm there all the time and then suddenly you can't be, so it was kind of like someone close to you dying."

Mr Slack described the devastation of residents at the sudden closure of the garden centre, which is next to Kew Gardens Underground station. He said: "People walk past and it's like: 'What? You're the heart of the village.' People have bought homes here because when they walked off the Tube, they told me: 'Your shop was the reason we decided to move here. We were choosing between this place and here and we chose here because we came out and it was just beautiful'."

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The Kew Gardener, Station Parade, Kew, Richmond upon Thames
The Kew Gardener traded next to Kew Gardens for 22 years -Credit:Charlotte Lillywhite

The plant specialist told the LDRS he was in Manchester on May 5 celebrating his 12-year-old son's birthday when friends told him a company had visited the shop that night to put up a notice and change the locks on behalf of the landlord without 'prior notification or warning'. The dad, who also has a seven-year-old daughter, said he returned on May 7 and offered to pay the arrears but was told not to as the landlord had terminated the lease.

Mr Slack said CBRE, the managing agent acting on behalf of the landlord, had told him in October it planned to put up his rent by 62.5 per cent, although this had not come into force yet. He claimed he asked CBRE for a statement of accounts in March, which he never received.

Residents rushed to rally around Mr Slack as soon as they discovered The Kew Gardener had closed, even launching a GoFundMe to help with any legal costs and a petition in a desperate bid for the shop to be allowed to reopen. "There's not really words to describe how grateful you are, it's absolutely lovely," Mr Slack said.

The GoFundMe describes The Kew Gardener as a 'vital part of the commercial and social life of Kew' with a 'stunning display of plants [that] welcomes thousands of visitors to Kew Gardens and brightens the day of local shoppers'.

Among the 'universal' support he has received, Mr Slack was particularly moved by the story of a homeless man who used to sleep in the doorway of the garden centre. He said: "I used to feed him, bring him food at 10pm, I used to poke an electric wire through the letterbox so he could charge his phone so he had something and then when it got really, really cold I came down here and I found him somewhere to stay for the night... and he came by last week and he said 'if it wasn't for you, I'd be dead behind some bins. You saved my life. If there's anything I can do, I’ll do it for you'."

Messages of support from residents outside The Kew Gardener, Station Parade, Kew, Richmond upon Thames
Residents have left messages of support outside the garden centre -Credit:Charlotte Lillywhite

Mr Slack expects mounting pressures to force more independent businesses like his to close, as he raised concerns about the knock-on effects on the local communities they care about. "I was away when all this happened up in the town where I grew up in Cheshire, Nantwich, and the shops there are closed too," he said.

While Kew is an affluent area known as the home of one of the most famous botanic gardens in the world, Mr Slack said the local businesses at its heart are struggling and face being pushed out by chains. He said: "It's nice to go somewhere where there's something a bit different, a little village or a small town or something, and sadly Kew is losing its quirkiness and its individuality."

While he is hugely disappointed at the forced closure of his garden centre, Mr Slack described a sense of relief that he no longer has to grapple with the spiralling costs of running the shop - including the recent tripling of his electricity bill. He now plans to focus on his online shop, improve his gardening services and reaching more people on social media, while he wants residents to support other small businesses in Kew so they are not dealt the same fate as his.

Mr Slack said: "I could go and sit and cry in a corner, but I'm not going to. You've got to go and do something else - you've got to make that work, or make the other things you already do work better."

CBRE declined to comment.

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