Just over 20 years ago, when I lived with my family in South London, I was lucky enough to experience the wondrous ‘corner shop’ in all its glory before they virtually disappeared from our streets for good. My daughter was just two years old when we moved to ‘The Borough’, and that was before it had become Yuppie Central. We lived in a fabulous square, inhabited by actors, artists, writers and the original South Londoners who had inherited the flats and houses from their families.
It was a fantastic time for us all – mainly due to the corner shop which was run by an Italian couple who treated us all like their own offspring. It was a meeting place for us to link up with the other inhabitants of the Square, an emotional support centre when you had a problem and a crèche when any one of us parents had to dash across town to a meeting or audition. On several occasions they delivered soup to my door when we had a bug and couldn’t go out, and even fed our cats when we were away. More like a family than a grocery store, and they managed to keep the food at a reasonable price in spite of the Supermarket being down the road and even ran a ‘tab’ for elderly residents who were struggling to meet their food bill until they received their monthly allowance.
Like so many of these spectacular places, they eventually had to close because of the extortionate rates that were raised by the greedy commercial landlords, and this was in spite of a huge petition from us all and a plea to maintain some sort of heritage in the area.
I am telling you this because I feel passionate about our High Street, and really don’t want the same thing to happen to so many shops and outlets throughout the UK that are being affected by our lack of support through the convenience of the online purchasing that is becoming the norm.
A very good example of a successful remaining retail outlet, I am happy to say, is a local boutique which is still being supported by customers in the flesh, who need to try on their fabulous clothing – a big ‘shout out’ for The Forge in Gerrards Cross www.theforgeboutique.com. This is similar to the corner shop concept as a meeting and greeting place – and I was amazed when I moved to the area two years ago, and found someone being comforted in the boutique just before Christmas. The poor lady had a melt down because it had all got too much for her with the demands of the time of year with the food and present buying shopping, preparing the house for a large number of people – do I need to go on!
But I was delighted to witness that with some TLC from the customers, and a hug from the shop keeper, she went away feeling she had the strength to cope.
This is why we have to take responsibility and somehow build into our schedule the time to go out and hit our High Street. It doesn’t mean we have to spend lots of money, but you will be surprised how much you can save when you search for a bargain in some of the local stores, and the satisfaction and pleasure it will give you knowing you are contributing to keeping the heritage of the High Street alive.