Âme Sœur was a lovely little restaurant, run by lovely people. Jill and I visited a couple of times and found it homely, friendly, welcoming and infinitely superior to any of the local representatives of the national chains.
But, like so many independent operations in a town which used to be famous for its independents, Àme Sœur has fallen foul of the big chains and their massive buying power, their microwaves, their systems and their special offers.
Carluccio's and Nando's have moved in to join Prezzo and Strada and Wagamama and Pizza Hut and Pizza Express and a host of others, all attracted by a wining and dining culture which was created from scratch by small independent bars and bistros over the last thirty years or so.
Now, they are setting about destroying the very establishments which created their marketplace.
This appears to be a matter of supreme indifference to a council which remains committed to yet another mall, despite public opposition. After all, as long the rates come in, who cares about the culture of the town? And if they can raise the tax base by knocking down a few Regency frontages and building five storey brick walls within a few feet of independent restaurants, what the hell?, let's do it.
Independents, you see, don't have the resources to fight the bureaucracies. They are devoting their limited resources to the struggle to stay alive in an environment in which their chain gang competition is offering 40% off here and free bottles of wine there, two meals for the price of one here and pints for halves there.
You can't blame the consumer. In a recession, especially in a recession, the consumer takes any and every deal going. Which is why, to paraphrase Marx, 'man is born free but is everywhere in chain restaurants'.
It won't last of course. In a year or two, what's fashionable now will become unfashionable. And some hedge fund which cares little for quality and customer service, except as items on a balance sheet, will rebrand them and sign up some other celebrity to lend their name, and the process will begin again.
I've majored on the hospitality industry because that is the area of activity in which I have a (vested) interest. But of course the same principle applies up and down our High Streets.
The big names get the prime sites and set the rent levels. Every throw of every dice is loaded in their favour.
Almost everyone I know is sad about the closure of Àme Sœur. But did they patronise it? Or did they sneak off to Strada because they'd just got some free meal deal from Vouchercloud on their iPhone?
Of course they did. But that's the nub: "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone".
Our best wishes to Jason and Sarah. Good luck!
Today from the everysmith vault: still listening to - and still loving - Another Self Portrait.