I just read that around seven million small businesses are at risk of closing due to the Covid madness. Now more than ever, it’s our turn to support our cities’ independent shops and businesses, so it seems appropriate to share this post today.
As well as a sentimentality for old, vulnerable architecture (see here), the Ellie & Co team also have an affection for those local, neighbourhood shops, often open for a few decades, family run and at risk of disappearing. They usually have eye-catching shopfronts which attract artists keen to document their existence, like Eleanor Crow, whose book – London Shopfronts: In Praise of Small Neighbourhood Shops – celebrates many of London’s small businesses fighting for survival, from Italian delis to the city’s oldest coffee stall.
Above: E Pellicci cafe, 332 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 0AG
Crow started drawing shopfronts 10 years ago, building on a love of small retailers going back to her childhood in rural Cornwall and Gloucestershire. It wasn’t just the eye-catching exteriors that interested her: “I’d go in, buy things and talk to the owners. A lot of it became about admiring skill.”
Sadly, many of the establishments captured by Crow over the past decade have since closed, sunk by rising rents and business rates, competition from supermarkets and parking restrictions. The threat to independent food retailers is worth fighting, says Crow, “because they are something everyone benefits from. They help create the community, they give it a visual presence. People still appreciate that – they don’t want to buy everything online.”
London Shopfronts: In Praise of Small Neighbourhood Shops, is available from all independent bookshops and here.