As you walk into Paul Rothe and Son you are overcome with a sense of triumphalism because, put simply, here you have a small, independent family delicatessen/sandwich shop, just a stone’s throw away from Oxford Street that has managed to defy the odds, keep with its traditions and remain an integral part of the local ‘foodie’ experience. Not that ‘foodie’ was a term when this great establishment came to be in 1900, writes Matthew Jaffa, FSB London
I meet Paul and Stephen, father and son, who are now the third and fourth generation running the business just before Phillip Hammond stands to deliver his Autumn Budget, and Paul is intransigent about what needs to be addressed “Business rates are the number one issue facing our business”. Paul added “We are currently paying £2,000 a month in rates and yet that comes after a successful appeal”. Following on from FSB lobbying the Chancellor made the announcement to cut the rates bill of Paul Rothe and Son by a third.
Paul is now celebrating his 50th year working in the shop and he is proud of its heritage. His Grandfather came over from Hamburg at the turn of the 20th century and changed the business model in the late 1950s from running a pure catering business to a mix of catering and retail business. The Screwed down, 1950s table and leather chairs give the business its character. The walls are stock filled with hundreds of Jams and marmalades adding to its singularity.
Loyal customers and tourists, particularly from Asia, come and visit the vibrant local business but whilst footfall remains strong with passing trade and a strong central London lunch time customer base, Paul and Stephen remain concerned about the lack of information around Real-Time VAT accounting once it comes into existence for small firms in April 2019.
Paul said “Mastering the VAT return remains the greatest challenge, I spend around two hours a week managing invoices and VAT, and further time with health and safety obligations such as hourly checks on the temperature of the soup that we sell, and yet we have not received any communications from HMRC on the upcoming changes to managing our VAT obligations”.
To spend an hour in the company of Paul Rothe and his son, and their loyal employee Jackie (who has also been with the business for 31 years), you fully appreciate the sacrifices that a family business has to make to survive and thrive in the capital for over 118 years, Paul’s advice is clear to make it profitable “total dedication, with a need to be over every part of the business and not to take a back seat and let someone else run the business”.
Paul Rothe and Son has been an FSB member since 1975 – a year after FSB was set up – and Paul and his father benefitted from the legal support and general ‘back up of the organisation’ throughout the years.
FSB is urging everyone to support small businesses in the run up to the holiday season through its support for Small Business Saturday which takes place on the 1st December this year. Margins continue to be tight for the micro and small business community across the country, however, shopping is about ‘experience’ – and it is vitally important that we continue to support the independent businesses on our high streets to share that ‘experience’ and sense of local community.
I experienced a warm chat, a lovely cup of tea and two slices of toasted rye bread with a slither of jam. Simple pleasures.