Sicilian Avenue suit seller with 41-year history turfed out for redevelopment

A Holborn suit shop run by the same man for the last 41 years is set to go out of business after the building’s owners gave him until the end of August to move out.

Dhanji Patel, from Harlesden, became the owner of Omran Menswear on the historic Sicilian Avenue in Central London back in 1981 and has come into work every single day the shop’s been open since.

Though the business had a rocky start, after a few years – and a visit from a chairman of Ben Sherman – he upped the quality of his shirts and suits.

And as his confidence as a salesman grew, so did his worldwide customer base, with visitors from as far afield as Kenya and Nigeria.

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But recently Dhanji was informed that he would have to vacate the unit which houses his shop by the end of August this year as the landlord plans to refurbish the entire avenue.

With business still slow at the moment this has left Dhanji with precious little time to sell off his remaining stock, thought to be around £30,000 of clothing, before he is forced to shut down.

He told MyLondon: “I’m praying to the landlord if they just allow me a few more months, as soon as people are out and things start opening my customer flow will grow and I will be able to at least get rid of some of my stock.

“I have so many lovely customers from all over the world. But obviously at the moment with this pandemic they can’t come here.

Dhanji's store has been here longer than any other tenant on the Avenue, but now looks set to close
Dhanji’s store has been here longer than any other tenant on the Avenue, but now looks set to close
(Image: MyLondon)

“I don’t need years or anything, just a few more months whereby I can see my customers and sell what I have. Otherwise at the end of August I’ll be left with all this stock and then what do I do?”

Dhanji had to close another shop he had in Bloomsbury near the British museum during the pandemic last year to save money, but it now looks as though he’ll be left with no shop at all.

“It’s very sad, I’ve been here so many years, I’m the oldest tenant in the avenue and I’ve met so many customers, so many of the loveliest customers, lawyers, barristers, solicitors, Lords, ministers, but now my end is coming.

He was first encouraged to inv est in the shop by an old boss of his, Mr Mirchandani who had employed him as an accountant at his own boutique.

Dhanji has already had to close his other store in Bloomsbury as a result of the pandemic
Dhanji has already had to close his other store in Bloomsbury as a result of the pandemic
(Image: MyLondon)

When the partnership split in 1981, the Sicilian Avenue shop was the least well performing of the three, and the one Dhanji was left with.

Despite this tough break he devoted his life to making it work and spent the last 41 years growing his reputation and skillset.

He now boasts he can measure a man who walks in the store with just a glance, and prides himself on the quality of his service.

Unsurprisingly then, the thought of all this work disappearing is almost too painful: “I’m crying here inside me, I love this shop, but it’s out of my hands. I have to go.” He told us.

Elsewhere on Sicilian Avenue he points out other units that have sat empty for prolonged periods, three years the one directly across, nearly five the one next to that, another on the street has been empty for 16 years.

What they’re trying to do is to make very big premises, knock through walls, that’s what I’ve heard. They don’t want to make small shops like this they want bigger shops.

Dhanji says a number of the store-fronts on the historic Sicilian Avenue in Holborn have sat empty for years
Dhanji says a number of the store-fronts on the historic Sicilian Avenue in Holborn have sat empty for years
(Image: MyLondon)

“Shops like this are disappearing, a proper gentleman’s shop, you go in the city you won’t find shops like this, it’s all high fashion.”

Sicilian Avenue changed ownership last year when a hedge fund acquired it along with a group of other properties for around £250million.

For now, Dhanji is in limbo. He says the landlords’ agents have indicated they may be able to give him the few extra months he needs, but so far the date remains the end of August to move out.

Nevertheless he remains optimistic: “Maybe I’ll try something online from home, although I don’t know much about that kind of thing, but I’m sure something will come out of it.

“I’m always positive things will work out.”

The owners of Sicilian Avenue did not respond to MyLondon’s request for comment.

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My London – Local News