After half a century of helpful, friendly and personal service to the good citizens of Brighton, the owner of John’s Camping is to close his doors for the last time next month. John Holden, pictured left with his daughters, is long since past the age when most people wish to retire. John and his family were offered a very good price for the freehold of the shop. He has found trading in an internet age not as easy as before but nonetheless has competed wherever possible.
John’s store ends its days on Brighton’s London Road, which is heavily populated by supermarkets. Their steady march to high street domination is not the cause of any celebration. Where they are soulless corporate behemoths, John was the very opposite. Everyone entering the store was made to feel like they were specially regarded. I’m quite sure that John, Nicky and JoJo didn’t know me from Adam but they always created the impression that they were pleased to see me again. That was as true when I discovered the sad news of their impending closure as it was when my folks first walked me through their doors in New England Street when I was just a few years’ old.
John started his business on the Lewes Road in 1964, moved to premises on New England Street where he traded for 34 years and has been on the London Road for the last ten. Although he was reluctant to move to London Road a decade ago, preferring to remain in the ex-British Rail staff cafe, demolished to make way for the redeveloped corporate zone behind Brighton Railway Station, it proved a profitable move with far more in the way of passing trade. His arrival there held out the promise that the London Road wasn’t destined to remain forever the shitty end of Brighton’s commercial stick.
John has sold the freehold but doesn’t know what the new owner intends to do with the building. He suspects that the space upstairs will be turned into flats. He’s now holding the grandest of all closing down sales, with bargains a-plenty. Whereas they could easily sell most of that stuff for twice the sale price on eBay, they’re choosing to give it away to the good folk of Brighton for truly rock bottom prices. Everything must go!
Brighton remains a town packed with independent retailers and gains much of its character from it. All things must pass and John’s Camping appears to be proof of that. Although those of us who can remember his previous stores may well view the closure as little more than the passing of our own time, nonetheless John’s final day trading will mark the end of a much loved era. It will be farewell to one of our most faithful friends.