They’ve been in Cleveland Street for nearly 30 years and now they’ve moved to their third premises. Western Printers were forced out of their old shop by development plans but when we visited them this week they were all smiles and happy to be in their new shop, even though it is smaller.
Husband and wife team Suresh and Jay Patel had their first premises at number 70 (formerly a florist and now the Brazilian Gourmet cafe) where they operated from 1986 to 1993. They moved into bigger premises across the road, and from Camden to Westminster, to spend the next 22 years at number 103 in the triangular building made famous by the Banksy mural on the southern end, and currently subject to controversial redevelopment plans by Dukelease Properties.
They have now moved north a block, and back into Camden, to number 108 (formerly the short lived Coffee Establishment, and before that Mr Cappuccino) where a new 12 year lease should keep them from zig-zagging across the street again in the near future. They are probably the only business to have worked from three different locations on the same Fitzrovia street.
Suresh and Jay moved to London from Nairobi, where they had a paper businesses, in the mid 1980s. They both had ink in their blood as Jay’s father worked in the printing industry and Suresh’s father was in typesetting. Suresh explained the company name came from the fact that they were moving west from Africa, and setting up shop in the West End.
They still have some of the same clients that first used them in the 1980s, and do work for both University College and University College Hospital. “We still get customers from when we first opened our shop down the road,” says Jay.
They have served many generations of students and now have clients from all over London who appreciate their attention to detail and high standard of printing. The website brings in business also.
The new premises are smaller but the wide range of print services — anything from a poster to a book to a t-shirt — on offer remain the same with state-of-the-art equipment. Suresh explains: “Smaller machines do the same job these days.” They have also dropped the stationery side to concentrate on their core business, ably assisted by Alka who joined them in 1994.
The northern end of Cleveland Street, beyond Maple Street is changing as dramatically as the southern end, now overshadowed by the massive Fitzroy Place development. Happily, as well as Western Printers, it still has several small independent businesses including a dry cleaners, a fabric & trimmings shop that also offers a wonderfully random selection of clothing including army surplus, a launderette, two dentists, a tailor, two hairdressers and a shoe repairers.
But many of the small businesses have disappeared from this stretch in the last five years, including a wig shop, a general store, an electrical shop that had a sideline in model soldiers and most recently, a stationers/toys/sweets/art materials store.
Back at their old building, even though planning permission has not yet been given, many of the shops have closed, leaving a very sad-looking part of the street with roller shutters permanently down.
At their new premises Western Printers continues to specialise in digital printing, T-shirt printing, embroidery on shirts, printing onto mugs and caps, as well as photocopying, business cards, and more. And there’s always time to stop and talk to the customers and chat about life in Fitzrovia.
Western Printers, 108 Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 6NY.