"It is very sad but it’s something that has to be done"

The Adamou brothers shut up shop after more than 50 years of trading in Chiswick

Related Links

Painting courtesy of Jorgen Faxholm

Further images can be viewed here courtesy of Ian Wylie

Chiswick 'Legend' Not Set To Close Just Yet

Locals pay their respects to Mr Adamou senior

Sign up for a free weekly newsletter from ChiswickW4.com

Film and TV stars were regular customers, along with Nigella Lawson and food lovers from around the globe.

T Adamou & Sons was known for first introducing west London to exotic new items like the aubergine and appeared in countless foodie guides.

For over half a century the Greek-Cypriot grocer was a hub of the community on Chiswick High Road, a place to drop in and chat, as well as shop.

But on Sunday [13th March 2011] the doors to Adamou closed for the final time as customers, some in tears, gathered to pay their last respects to a west London institution.

It’s a familiar story for small independent traders of soaring bills and business rates, increased parking problems and customers switching to supermarkets. Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose are all within walking distance.

Yet there is a feeling of loss among locals who thought Adamou and its Aladdin’s Cave of olives, spices and foods would be an ingredient of their High Road forever, alongside the rather more modern stores, cafes, restaurants and bars.

It sold many different items over the decades. But the sense of community was the one thing in the shop that no-one could put a price on.

It opened in 1959, just after prime minister Harold Macmillan was re-elected and Britain had its first sight of a new car called the Mini. And now it has gone.

“I think people are more traumatised than I am. One guy even said, ‘When Adamous goes, I’m selling my house.’ It’s a bit like mini-hysteria.,” says Ionas Adamou, 59, who ran the business with brother Adamos, 62.

“With us being here so long, people don’t like the idea of something going. It’s part of their security system, their stability.”

Adamos - also known as Adam - recalls some of their famous customers past and present. “Vanessa Redgrave has been a regular forever. Peter Bowles, James Ellis from Z Cars, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy. John Thaw was a regular and his wife Sheila Hancock still pops her head in. David Niven made a film here. He was a very charming man.”

Other shoppers over the years have included former James Bond star Timothy Dalton, actors Donald Pleasence, Peter Egan and Corin Redgrave, as well as the late Irish comic Dave Allen.

There’s no doubt the shop failed to move with the times. But the brothers own the freehold and there is a chance it might return in a different form. There are plans to refurbish the retail space, as well as the four flats above.

Adamos says Adamou might re-open as a smaller, specialised store. That’s just one of the options. Ionas, also known as John, is exploring a possible transfer online.

But both brothers, who have had their differences over the years, know it is the end of an era and say they may end up having to lease or sell the premises to someone else.

“The relief is that a decision has been made because my brother and I have both dithered for too long. I’ve known it’s been coming for ages,” says father-of-three Ionas (pictured on the right).

Business rates were in the region of £3000 a month. “Some weeks, if you’re only making about £1,500, it doesn’t add up. The situation has been dire for years and it’s just hard to survive with the business rates and lack of volume.”

Adamos agrees: “It’s been pretty horrendous. It is very sad but it’s something that has to be done. We can’t carry on. We’re forced into it.”

They have worked in the shop all their lives, even helping out as children when their father Theodosios
, also known as Tony, opened for business 52 years ago, helped by wife Photini. “They worked very long hours, opening at 7am and coming home about 10pm,” says Ionas.

Theo had served in the British Army during the Second World War and moved to London shortly afterwards, where Photini had endured the Blitz.

The original shop at No 126 - to the left as you look from the High Road - was a butcher’s and the cold room is still downstairs, along with a smoking oven.

Theo then bought the right-hand side at 124, which was a leather goods and handbag shop, knocking the walls down to expand his business.

“My mother was a lovely, kind woman,” recalls Ionas. “My father was larger than life, very vocal. But people seemed to love him. They started from nothing, which is quite impressive.”

Theo died five years ago at the age of 82 and Photini has also passed away. Both are still remembered in an area where several other small traders have also recently closed.

A picture of their father still looked over the tills as the brothers shut up shop for the last time.

Adamos reflects: “In many ways it was like a Middle Eastern bazaar. My father would make Greek coffee for people. It was alive. It was communication between people, which we’ve lost elsewhere. The thing we’ll miss most is the feeling of community compared to the de-humanisation you feel in supermarkets.

“The experience of being in the shop has been an education, in the sense that you’ve met every type of person under the sun, most races I imagine, and it was a great meeting place at its height.

“The regulars are quite shattered. But at the same time, a lot of people who are saying, ‘Oh, no, no, no,’ have not really supported us in the last few years.

“It’s such a part of the scene; people expect it to be here. But, sadly, they don’t actually shop here anymore. Nothing is forever.”

Ian Wylie

March 15, 2011