shopfronts of london book

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

The Fishery, 11 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, London N16 0PH

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.”

RE Robertson, 787 Lea Bridge Road, Walthamstow, London E17

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.”

PJ Murray newsagents, 4 Woburn Walk, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 0JL
L. Manze, Pie & Mash, 76 High Street, Walthamstow, London E17 7LD
Victoria Fish Bar, 111 Roman Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 0QN
General Woodwork Supplies, 76-80 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 7PA
Syd’s coffee stall operated from 6 Calvert Avenue in Hackney from 1919 to 2019 when it was moved to the Museum of London
Britain’s First & Best Beigel Shop, 155 Brick Lane, London E1 6SB
Leila’s Shop, Calvert Ave, Bethnal Green, London E2 7JP
The Fryer’s Delight, 19 Theobalds Road, Holborn, London WC1X 8SL
Frank Ison, 47 Orford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 9NJ
Foster Books, 183 Chiswick High Road, London W4 2DR
F Cooke, 150 Hoxton Street, London N1 6SH
Daren Bread, ghost sign Stepney Green, London E1 3JU
Cruson, 26 Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, London SE5 8QU
Arthur’s Cafe, 495 Kingsland Road, Dalston, London E8 4AU
A Gold, 42 Brushfield Street, London E1 6AG
Lina Stores, 18 Brewer Street, London


London Shopfronts: In Praise of Small Neighbourhood Shops, is available from all independent bookshops and here.

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