A popular retail emporium and community hub is set to close its doors within weeks following a dispute over a rent increase imposed by its landlord.
Love Stamford was set up two years ago as a limited company inside the Stamford Corn Exchange building in Broad Street by Andraya and Alex Curtis.
The aim was to give start-up businesses somewhere to sell their products, provide a safe, fun playarea for young children and a coffee shop open to all.
It has also become a popular meeting point for parent and toddler groups and hosted fundraising events for local charities.
But after falling out with the charitable trust which runs the theatre, Andraya and Alex have reluctantly decided to shut down Love Stamford in the next couple of weeks. No final date has been decided.
Andraya said: “It was a heart-breaking decision but we were told our rent was to rise significantly above what we already pay - which in my opinion is a fair commercial rent.
“After two good years, Love Stamford was really making a name for itself - and was particularly popular with young families because what we offer is unique. We spent tens of thousands of pounds turning an empty shell into a warm, welcoming environment.
“We gave local entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their products without spending a fortune on their own premises.”
The news of the closure was met with sadness by dozens of people who commented on Love Stamford’s Facebook post.
Sarah Powell, who runs BilinguaSing, a foreign language singing group for youngsters which meets at Love Stamford, was among those disappointed to hear the news.
She said: “I have a group of parents and children who meet at Love Stamford every Thursday morning and, as a venue, it’s perfect for us.
“We always got a warm, friendly-welcome and I’ll be very sad indeed to see it go.”
Stamford Corn Exchange’s managing trustee Michael Lee confirmed Love Stamford had been asked to pay more rent, but dismissed claims the rise was excessive or unfair.
He said: “We are a charity and have to be successful. As is standard practice when leasing property, a rent review was scheduled after two years.
“We’ve always asked for a normal commercial rate. In fact, the sum we asked for was less than the previous tenant was paying seven years ago.
“We offered Andraya the chance to go to arbitration, where an independent expert decides on a fair rent for the space but she declined.”
The room currently used by Love Stamford will remain a retail space - but will in future be managed by the trust.
Judith Mackie, trust general manager, said the existing small businesses would be invited to stay.
She added: “Community groups are welcome to use space in the main building - which is better equipped and more comfortable for them.”
Love Stamford employed one full-time staff member and casual workers.