THE owner of a new party store he is keen for his area to recover from recent shop closures.

Romani Shehata, 42, opened Party Zone in Western Road, Hove, two weeks ago.

He hopes the store will become a hit with customers, encouraging people to the area despite the loss of several shops there in recent months.

These include Patisserie Valerie and cheese shop La Cave A Fromage.

Mr Shehata said: “It’s a seasonal business – events like Halloween and Brighton Pride are a big deal, but we also depend on birthday parties and celebrations during the week.

“Since we’ve only just opened it’s too early to say whether we’ve got any best-sellers, but our make-up has been going down well.

“For the time being we want to stock a range of products so people will have some variety when it comes to buying party supplies.”

Mr Shehata used to own an internet cafe, but decided to branch out into party supplies when he noticed a gap in the market.

He still has a few desktop computers and a printer and said: “When we moved over and became Party Zone we had people complaining that they couldn’t print things out any more, so we changed our plans a bit to accommodate that.”

Mr Shehata said high business rates were a problem for many shops and something every business worried about.

He said: “For us it will depend on how the first few months go.

“If we do well and cover our business rates we’ve got room to expand, but if not we’ll have to adapt and find something else.

“Patisserie Valerie, which was one of the oldest shops in Hove, closed down last month and it’s affected the whole area. Without it the street looks empty, which is damaging for trade – if tourists see an empty building it puts people off.

“We’re hoping that a new business will take the premises and turn it around.”

Tazz Khan, who owns the neighbouring Salvage Cafe, echoed his concerns about the loss of shops.

He said: “I’m glad they’ve got something going again with Party Zone, it’s not nice being next to an empty shop.

“At the end of the day though, anyone opening up a new shop is good for the area.”