New occupant of the old Cornerstone Bookshop: Thermomix

Back in 2021 we wrote an article about the end of long-running Christian bookstore The Corner Stone, which was one of the street’s longest standing shops until owner Ulrike Warner decided to call it a day and head for a well earned retirement. The premises were put up to let for around £90,000 a year by Bells (a local estate agent who specialise in commercial property) and were quickly snapped up. Work got going to give the somewhat dilapidated premises the makeover it had needed for a while, with new double glazing, flooring, air conditioning, and a complete rewire – pretty much everything had to be replaced. The exterior has also seen a bit of a repaint, but remains much the same design – we had expected the right hand to be brought level with the pavement when new windows were installed, but they have chosen to keep the classic 1960s angled shop front in place.

And we now know who is occupying the store: at some point next week Thermomix, a maker of high-end kitchen mixers which can also cook food, as well as tell you what to do to make specific meals, will open this as their demonstration and training kitchen, showing them off to prospective buyers as well as running classes on how to make the most of them for people who already have one. The shop is being fitted out with a large counter, plenty of display space, and all the things you’d need to be able to cook.

Thermomix is quite an interesting business. The firm doesn’t sell from mainstream retailers, and is instead only sold by self employed agents – ‘Thermomix Consultants’ – who manage and run operations in particular areas, in return for a commission on sales. This may remind readers of the ‘multi level marketing’ favoured by Avon in cosmetics, and a variety of more dubious nutritional supplement businesses that look more like pyramid schemes. That said, in Thermomix’s case it seems a more structured setup that is closer to a franchise business, with fixed pricing for the product (at the time of writing, precisely £1,189) and commission rates for the consultants. The shops like the one opening on Lavender Hill are also about making sure that anyone who spends what is, by any reckoning, a pretty hefty sum on one of the mixers gets the most out of it, and keeps using it in the long term – and from what we’ve seen from people who have one, both the products and the after sales classes are very popular and the ‘word of mouth’ effect from satisfied customers is strong.

There’s no debate about the quality of the mixers themselves, which have been sold since the 1970s, and – many iterations and developments later – continue to be made in France and Germany. Unlike ordinary food processors they can heat food as well (up to 120°C), they have a built in weighing scale, and they have a screen to access a large online recipe catalogues, with the ability to order the ingredients you’ll need for specific foods. Thermomix is a part of Vorwerk, maker of arguably the best vacuum cleaners in the business. Their after sales service is reputedly second to none, and you can expect a Thermomix to last a very long time. Which is what you’d expect for something costing £1,189!

This isn’t a new venture for this Thermomix team: they have been trading from premises at Chelsea Harbour for a good few years. We can see why they’re moving: Chelsea Harbour is a very unusual bit of London, with numerous flats and a marina, but also an enormous 1980s glass-roofed ‘Mall’ that no-one has ever really heard of, despite it being a centrepiece of what was the biggest single construction projects in the UK for decades. It was initially designed as a centre for general upmarket shopping and entertainment, but it completely failed within just a few years with almost all the shops and restaurants closing, mostly because of the remoteness of the site. It has since found a new purpose as the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, a large cluster of specialised design-focussed businesses who run showrooms in what had originally been expected to be shops and restaurants, while another building next door houses mostly offices (and the previous Thermomix studio). However we can imagine that the sheer remoteness and quietness of the site will have been problematic for a business like Thermomix, which is a huge contrast with Lavender Hill.

Update: Works are now complete, with lots of Thermomixes in place and opening scheduled for the 3rd October.

Thermomix South London Branch Studio, 299-301 Lavender Hill, London SW11 1TN.

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