HIP investigates one of the many convenience stores of Hastings and St Leonards

Hastings and St Leonards are full of convenience stores, but people are not always clear what they sell. We know they sell groceries and other useful things, but what exactly? Well, this depends on which convenience store.

We took an interest in the Corner Market – on the corner of London Road and Norman Road – when we were looking for a home for a newspaper rack: outside so it could be easily seen by passers-by but protected from the rain. The Corner Market seemed an ideal place.

PICTURE: David Bruce Photography

Next door to the Corner Market, in Norman Road, is Londis convenience store and next door to Londis is Helen’s convenience store – with another one opening soon. And that’s just one small patch of the town; each of them sells different things, so it’s good to know where to go and why.

Apparently, it’s all about who the suppliers are and the choice of the owner or manager: going on the advice of one shopper, you find out where to get the things you like and pick and choose – similar to what’s happening with the big supermarkets where ‘loyal customers’ are becoming something of a rarity.

So what about Corner Market? This has been open for three years and for the last year managed by Adham Ali. He explained that they have three suppliers: one that specialises in Kurdish goods, one for Turkish goods and one for Arabic goods: it’s the latter that, to some extent, marks it out as different from the others. The interview was brief as there were constant interruptions from happy shoppers, keen to explain why they came there. 

Comments such as: “They have good quality affordable products.” and “I particularly like their biscuits, filo pastry and their amazing feta cheese.” and “They are a great place for all the cooking essentials.” Another commented that: “My mother-in-law found all the ingredients she wanted for proper North Indian food.”

These comments particularly highlighted the quality and the range of basic products that are stocked. Adham put this down to the fact that their suppliers source genuine ‘country of origin’ products like the Greek feta cheese.

Another shopper said: “Without doubt, the best hummus in town”, and particularly commended the Spiral Pie, something like spanakopita without the spinach. He went on to say: “If you want anything out of the ordinary, extra flavour, they have it. Such a variety. They draw in from different parts of the world. They enrich our lives with their flavours.” Praise indeed

But this doesn’t come without a lot of hard work. When asked about business during lockdown, Adham pointed out that it had been particularly hard work trying to source items that had disappeared from the average supermarket shelves – like loo paper. So that’s why they always seemed to have what others didn’t.

According to Adham, the best seller is the fruit and veg. That’s interesting as there is a lot of competition in the centre of St Leonards, not just from the other small convenience stores, but also from the Co-op and Spar, as well as a local greengrocer who has been there for many years. Perhaps this shows how competition creates demand rather than all the shops chasing a small pie.

And the future? Adham talks about carrying on as before, but crucially, “reacting to demand from customers and expanding our range of products.”

White’s, Parade and Spar in Kings Road, and The Corner Market and Londis in Norman Road, are all convenience stores in central St Leonards which in normal times stock this newspaper. Unfortunately we are currently unable to print due to low advertising revenue. We hope normal service will resume soon.

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