Dreams melt away for city’s ice cream seller

James Wells is being forced to pack up his Coney Island ice cream business due to thecentre:mk increasing his rent
James Wells is being forced to pack up his Coney Island ice cream business due to thecentre:mk increasing his rent

An ice cream vendor who has served city centre shoppers for 25 years has been frozen out of business by a massive rent rise.

James Wells is packing his barrows and quitting thecentre:mk on Saturday – the day his rent was due to rocket by more than 50 per cent.

Centre bosses told him six weeks ago the rent for his two kiosks would rise from £60,000 to £96,000 a year.

“It’s not a conceivable amount. We would never sell enough ice cream to pay it,” he said.

The family business, called Coney Island, was started by James’ father Andy from an ice cream trike when the shopping centre first opened.

“There were far more of us independent retailers in those days. Now we feel the centre management are driving us all out with these rent rises,” said James, who had hoped to pass the business on to his children one day.

Several other kiosk traders have already quit after getting a frosty reception when they queried the rent rise, he said,

“It is destroying the character of the place. Soon all we’ll have left are the big, high yield shops that can be found everywhere.”

He now plans to get back to basics selling ices around the city from a trike. Meanwhile Coney Island is selling cones at a special goodbye price of £1.

A spokesman for the centre could not comment on tenants’ rents, but said: “The centre:mk is thriving. It is experiencing high footfall, low vacancy rates and attracting leading new retailers.”

> SECOND PICTURE: James Well’s father Andy and mother, Chris, with a helper on Coney Island’s original ice cream trikes