Usama Ghamhi, founder of Cleanse Juice Bar and Kitchen, stands in the doorway of the newly opened café. Credit: Stephen Tyler, RBKC
An innovative social investment lease has seen the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea work with lifelong Notting Hill resident Usama Ghamhi to transform a disused council-owned commercial property on world-famous Portobello Road into a thriving juice bar.
Usama Ghamhi, a lifelong resident of Notting Hill, approached Cllr Kim Taylor-Smith regarding 275 Portobello Road (a then derelict council property) with the idea of turning it into a healthy juice bar. After putting together a business plan, Usama was offered a social investment lease by RBKC. The lease provides Usama with favourable terms to bring the unused commercial property back into action.
In return for a reduced rent, Usama agreed to provide a number of services to the local community through his café. These outputs include providing free breakfast and hot drinks to homeless, rough sleeping, and vulnerable adults in the community. He also committed to hosting a Christmas dinner. The café will provide employment, work experience, and training to local people, and will reach out to care homes to provide food and drinks at a reduced rate. Elderly people will be given a discount in the store, takeaway packaging will be biodegradable, and food will be ethically sourced. Usama also agreed not to use single use plastics in the café.
“I’ve been going up and down this road every day all my life, and I saw the shop was empty for a good two years. I reached out to Cllr Kim Taylor-Smith and just asked ‘if I come up with a good business plan and you believe it would work, will you give me a shot?’ It feels great and thankfully it shows to people just like me or where I’m from that anything is possible and that you can definitely get something if you work hard.”Usama Ghamhi
Though the café only opened in May and has not yet started serving food, Usama has already successfully met a number of these agreed outputs. He has been providing free drinks to homeless and vulnerable adults and, last year, he provided a free Christmas dinner despite the café not yet being open. The café has become a safe space where members of the community can gather and socialise. It is also very popular with visitors to the area, with a number of excellent reviews online. Usama has faced some challenges with contacting care homes and hospices to provide discounted products to the elderly, but is receiving support from RBKC to help him do this.
“Usama’s vision and work ethic are infectious and we were only too happy to back his plans for Cleanse, which is a wonderful addition to Portobello Road’s thriving commercial line-up. This lease, which supports a young entrepreneur with a lifelong link to the area and breathes new life into vacant premises, is a perfect example of how social investment can have a positive impact on our residents’ lives. We are working hard to embed social investment across the Council, from our parks and leisure contracts to our new homes schemes.”Cllr Kim Taylor-Smith
This project was made possible by Usama Ghamhi, Cllr Kim Taylor Smith, and the Property and Social Investment teams at RBKC. Usama took over the rent of the unit in November 2021 and the café opened in May 2022.
Cleanse case study produced by Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
“Everything you could ask for in a Juice Bar! Fantastic range of juices, smoothies and shots all freshly made with good quality ingredients. Great coffee and warm, friendly customer service from staff and the owner who is local and know the neighbourhood. Would definitely recommend this spot and am looking forward to seeing this business grow.”Quote from Google review
A couple of lessons learned
- Residents’ ideas for empty units on our high streets should be listened to and, where possible, residents should be empowered and supported to act on their ideas.
- Residents who have been part of a community their whole lives get instinctive footfall as local people are invested in the person and therefore the project.