Visiting the independent shops in Kensington and Chelsea has not only been a walk back in time, but also a discovery of the creativity and individuality of the local shops in the area.
Kensington and Chelsea have long been known for its unique shopping areas, and when you get down on the street and discover the independent shops you normally just walk past, you find out that this really is true.
I have been fortunate enough to interview many independent shops in the borough for Wedge. Sitting at their counters, I have had countless chats with business owners about the past fifty odd years of establishment, the changes they’ve been a part of and the generations they’ve witnessed. Their shops are a part of them, exhibiting their many years of trade and change to reflect the times. But some shops, like the wondrous giftshop Pickwicks at 3 Holland Street is still the same as it was forty-five years ago. Before Pickwicks, the owner Jacqueline Leberne worked at a Dickensian shop called Pickwicks Papers, a local shop selling newspapers. And this is what she later named her cottage-like giftshop after, housing an array of hand-picked items like coasters and porcelain ornaments.
It is an inspiring step back in time being privy to shopkeeper’s stories and I urge you, next time you visit an independent shop, have a chat to the owner; they all have amazing stories to tell, and they love telling them!
When visiting shops, I was frequently greeted by a friendly, furry staff member. And I will never forget Elvis, the snuffling little pug who, when he looks at your with those big googly eyes, you have to give a pat. He trots around Fifi Wilson’s beautiful clothing boutique on Godfrey Street, making sure everyone is happy and well dressed.
Another interesting character I met was Dodo, the wandering pigeon of Notting Hill, the footwear boutique on Portobello Road. The friendly staff leave the door slightly ajar so Dodo can wander in and out, inspecting peoples shoes and then perching on his little bucket in the corner of the shop. Children can come in and hand-feed Dodo some bread and admire the feathered little shopkeeper. Having a pet in your home creates a certain calm, and pets in store adds that small personal touch and is a talking point for many customers.
Getting to know the amazing array of independent shops in Kensington and Chelsea has been an experience I will never forget. It has changed the way I shop; now I take in the whole establishment, from the old awnings to the pride a shopkeeper takes in their business. Go local and discover the unique shops you’ve never visited. It is worth having a chin-wag with your local shopkeeper and his dog; they might have some interesting stories and secrets, or be able to tell you some history about where you live.
Written by Lauren Ottaway