It is natural that the businesses in each town center change over the years.
But it looks like Week Street, Maidstone’s main shopping thoroughfare, is moving in a new direction.
Fads and fads change, and with them the stores that respond to those fads. No one is surprised that the Blockbuster video store is gone. Or that shops like Vape Outlet have appeared.
But other much larger businesses that were once the anchor of any high street have also disappeared – Marks and Spencer, Woolworths and even WHSmith have downsized and now share premises with the post office.
And which stores replaced them?
Very few it seems. Instead, Maidstone residents seem to be ditching ‘shopping therapy’ in favor of ‘food therapy’.
American burger chain Wendy’s and fast food restaurant Taco Bell are among those that have emerged recently.
They join the Greek restaurant Artemis, the German Doner Kebab, the Thai Palace, the Nepalese restaurant Namastee, the Turkish restaurant Kanikla Mangal and the Mexican Mexigo.
Also in Week Street, there are big names such as McDonalds, Burger King and KFC.
While smaller establishments such as Starburger and John’s Diner always seem to find plenty of customers.
Right now, outdoor clothing and gear store Trespass is having a closing sale, and electronic gear store Sevenoaks Sound and Vision has also called it a day. Workers removed signage from the store.
What will replace them, one wonders? A Swedish smorgasbord restaurant perhaps, or a South African biltong diner?
There are new businesses opening that are not restaurants.
The newest is Casino, a slot machine parlour.
It looks very smart and the doorman is dressed as impeccably as any The Savoy in The Strand store, but it’s no substitute for the long gone but still missed Army and Navy department store, no. is this not ?
Dinesh Kadka (Lib Dem) is a Maidstone Borough councilor for the High Street Ward.
He said: “Shopping habits are changing and the changing face of Week Street is just a natural development of that.
Cllr Khadka said: “More and more people are shopping online or at outdoor centres. But there is still a place for independent shops and it is good to see the hospitality sector rebounding from a difficult period during Covid.
“We can be grateful that the city center has found a new purpose – as a leisure destination – and still attracts people from all over the region, which is good for everyone.”
Tudor Price, of the business-supporting Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, agreed: “I don’t think the city center will ever go back to what it was.
“He’s been on an evolutionary journey long before the lockdown and the arrival of Covid.”
However, he added: “There is still plenty of room for experienced commerce, leisure and hospitality, all of which have a much-appreciated place in the city centre.”
Week Street was once the route of the A229, a Roman road leading from the Weald ragstone quarries to the Port of Rochester
The street “week” is thought to be derived from the Latin “vicus” – meaning a village, as Maidstone was then.
Far from being all Italian, the Roman army was made up of soldiers recruited from all over the world.
If they were on Week Street today, surely they could each have found a place to feast on their home country’s cuisine, but they would be hard pressed to buy a nail to mend their boots.