Wishing You a Happy Corner-Shaped 2013 Christmas

xmas.shopMrs. Shopkeeper has been hugely busy with stuff, and so this has been just the most neglected blog in the last few months. But that will all change as of January 1st. Well, realistically, January 3rd or 4th.

Anyway – thank you for your continued interest. And in the meantime we offer you this timely reminder of why you should keep it local: OXFORD STREET IN THE RUN UP TO CHRISTMAS!!! Need we say more…

Image by KnownColour, sourced under the Flickr Commercial Commons Licence.

Cornershop Gallery #9: Joke!

Go on. Admit it. Wouldn’t you just love this shop to be on your corner? Festival of fun? Giggles galore? Near Miracles? That’s our kind of corner shop – notwithstanding the fact that all cornershops possess at least a teensy bit of magic anyway. Maybe it’s just us, but shops which are on a hill as well as on a corner deserve extra respect – one naturally assumes the shopkeepers have one leg shorter than the other…
Photo by littleweed1950 via our all-singing, all dancing Flickr stream.

Music to Stack Shelves to #6: Played A-live

More music to lessen the pain of Thursdays. Because as every shopkeeper knows, Thursday is delivery day. Put-lots-of-stuff-away-day. Frankly we could have chosen anything by the Safri Duo: it’s all full of joie de vivre, and the strong bongo beat guarantees those boxes will be empty in no time. The only hitch with this is that Mrs. Shopkeeper keeps stopping her work to play very bad air drum. Ho hum.

Cornershop Gallery #8: Mannequin

Now this is a real shopkeeper’s shop. Selling shop fittings, and racks, and price guns, and shelving, and nasty day-glow posters. Whilst the rest of the world dreams of mobile phone shops, or shoe shops, or boutiques, shopkeepers dream of secret grottos like this. Well they do not – let’s be quite clear about this – actually dream of naked mannequins, even ‘really cheap’ ones. But the idea of finding the perfect unit for displaying this or that, or a high tech way of down-marking prices, or a super-compact counter-top dispenser… these little nuggets of excitement get us through the day.
Image by Andy Worthington via the Cornershopkeeping Flickr pool.

A Shopkeepers’ Zodiac

It stands to reason that some people are better at cornershopkeeping than others, just as some people are better at maths or extreme ironing than the rest of us. There are lots of qualities a shopkeeper needs: patience, tenacity, optimism, artistic flair, a good grasp of times tables, a love of creating order out of chaos, self-sufficiency, an ability to make a really good cup of tea. Oh – and patience. Did we mention patience? Mr. and Mrs. Shopkeeper are Aries and Leo respectively (was that a sharp intake of breath we heard?), neither of which are known for the trait of patience. It got us thinking what zodiac signs would make the very best of shopkeepers. So we offer this: not perhaps as a serious career guide, but who knows? People have changed direction for more frivolous reasons than this before now.

ARIES: Hmm. These guys reckon they rule the roost. Full of dynamism and big ideas, they are one of the most enterprising signs of the zodiac. Which should bode well for running a small business, yes? Um, well, they’re very good at opening new shops, and putting systems into place, and telling staff what to do. And then they get bored. So really they need to be the boss. Preferably of more than one shop, so that they can rove around not-being-bored. Or at the very least they need a small shop with different departments. They totally need minions (aka shopbots) to carry out all their aspirations. Aries are easy to spot as they always carry pockets full of shiny-new shop-related gizmos.

TAURUS: the stubborn ones. Taureans make great shop employees: they are loyal and dependable. They probably make great bosses in other sectors, but in the realm of retail, they prefer the safety of a set framework. That most variable of quantities, the customer, will phase and annoy them if they feel that they have autonomy at the till. Taureans like order and routine. They like tills to be balanced, and things to be priced, and a peg for their coats, and a time for tea. They would be happiest in a bookshop, or a haberdashery or hardware store, where the quality of goods is pre-determined and arguments are relatively few.

GEMINI: The chatterboxes of the zodiac. This in theory makes for a good till-bot, until you realise that said bot has been gassing for half an hour and there are still three deliveries to be put away. But seriously: Geminis make awesome cornershopkeepers. They are great at multi-tasking, and thinking on their feet, and their butterfly minds render them totally up for the chaotic parameters within which a general store invariably functions. The erratic demands and even more erratic hours of a quirky cornershop suit them perfectly. Geminis never wear sensible shop clothes.

CANCER: Soppy and creative Cancer is always going to be better running something arty-farty or working with children. A toyshop, antiques market or gallery would provide the perfect environment for them to flourish: a canvas to play with, an auditorium in which to perform. At the same time these outlets also enjoy relatively regular hours, allowing these home-loving sorts to scarper off at 5.30 sharp. Cancerian shopkeepers always wear nice cardigans: it is the law.

LEO: Ah yes. Leo. King of the High Street. Incorrigibly enthusiastic, hopelessly optimistic, and generous to a fault…as long as you are playing the game (any game) by his rules. Leo needs to be in charge, or at least to be allowed to live under the illusion that he is in charge. And he needs more or less constant attention, like a spoilt child (or shopcat). With this framework in which to work, he will, in return, give you the world. Leo’s love of melodrama and need for an audience means that he is best suited to running a cafe or restaurant – a theatrical and rewarding environment. If you need to ‘sack’ a Leo, just ignore him for a little while and he’ll whimper and leave of his own accord. Leo is quite messy and easy to spot owing to the bits of price label and box tape stuck in his hair.

VIRGO: Pernickety Virgo fits in real well in the world of retail – as long as you shove him in a shop that suits his unusually methodical talents. A dressmakers or a print shop or a jewellers would be ideal – they are all professions requiring attention to detail, stuff that is easy to track and quantify. Their tendency to hypochondria means that they should not under any circumstances be allowed to work in a chemist. It is a well known fact that all Virgo shopkeepers wear cut off shop-gloves and talk to themselves as they cash up every night. Their books, annoyingly, will always balance.

LIBRA: Gentle Librans are too much of a softy to run a hardcore corner shop. They are too nice – or at least to worried about offending people – and in the Libran universe the old (and usually incorrect) maxim of the customer always being right is recited almost as a mantra. All is not lost for their high street career however, as they make great florists and (if they can get over the unpredictability of animals) pet-shop-keepers. Librans are creative types and have an almost worrying affinity with pretty things, so let’s surround them with flowers and kittens. Libran shopkeepers always dress up dead natty, even when they are putting out the rubbish or washing the shop windows: this can infuriate other retailers.

SCORPIO: Inscrutable Scorpio is the most ambitious of all the Zodiac. He is also a bit of a loner, and for that reason would be great in a kiosk or market stall: self-employed, without need for staff, and in control of his own destiny. Such is his determination that he will probably turn his market barrow into a PLC within 5 years. Other shopkeepers are always in awe of the Scorpio derring-do. Scorpians are also attracted to the mysterious and the occult, and are the most likely to be found running that strange crystal shop at the end of the parade…

SAGITTARIUS: Restless and garrulous Saggitarius is more likely to be a travelling salesman than a stationary one, for he loves to rove around. If he is represented on the High Street, you’ll find him either selling cars (at which he would probably be terrifyingly able), or running the local bookies (for he’s a wee bit of a reckless devil to be sure). His customers will hang on his every word: he could surely sell owls to Athens, but he is a scrupulously honest trader. He’s a kind of sanitised Del Boy, if you like. Scorpio shopkeepers are recognisable by their jolly (often mismatched) outfits and jovial smiles.

CAPRICORN: These quiet types are often the cleverest. Practical and patient Capricorn is just brill with IT and general geekery. Put him in a record shop, or better still in a computer outlet, and he’ll be as happy as a sandboy. His careful attention to detail, refusal to take risks and appreciation of a safe and secure environment mean that he certainly shouldn’t be working with food, art, children or animals. Capricorn shopkeepers always wear corduroys, and possess an unexpectedly whacky range of knitwear. It is your duty as a shopper to try to make them smile and distract them from their lives of dedicated service for a brief moment.

AQUARIUS: Quirky and ethereal Aquarius would be rubbish at anything as mundane as shelf-stacking, but they can make good shopkeepers if you give them the right commodity. They would make perfect antique or junk merchants: their perspicacity and intuition give them an eye for a bargain, whilst their lack of emotional attachment means that they would sell their grannies if the going rate was good enough. Aquarius is a good listener and rational too: he often finds himself with hordes of troubled sorts propping up the counter, and is also most likely to assume the role of High Street President in times of need. Aquarian shopkeepers keep an immaculate shop without apparently ever lifting a finger.

PISCES: these gentle souls shy away from the till and too much responsibility, but their creativity can be put to great use in a retail environment, particularly in the line of food. They would not survive in a busy commercial kitchen, but give them a deli counter to play with and they will blossom. Communication through food (or art or music) is a perfect medium for them. Mere mortal shopkeepers can only look on as the Piscean effortlessly makes displays look attractive, and customers warm to their subtle but appealing demeanour. Pisceans float around the shop and materialise magically at your elbow: they are not entirely real and you should always hug them to make sure.

Image by djg0333 via Flickr.

Cornershop Gallery #7: New York Steak

Mr. & Mrs. Shopkeeper are off on a reccie. Well, that’s what they’re calling it. Whatever it is, it comprises a very short break to New York. Mrs. S. is purportedly going purely to research American cornershop culture. Mr. S. is going uniquely to check out the steak. And the burgers. And the hotdogs. Our choice of photo this week encapsulates all of that pretty well really.

Image with thanks to From kevin_in_bc : Happy St Georges Day. You got corner-shaped photos to share? Add them to our Flickr pool.

Purse-Picacity: A Gallery of Customers’ Hands and Wallets

OK – so this is one of our dafter galleries. BUT nothing so perfectly encapsulates the minutiae of a shopkeeper’s day. For what does a shopkeeper see most of…? (And no – we don’t see that much money.) Hands. Hands as people gesticulate, proffer, grasp, fold, wave. Of course we make eye-contact too, but the whole transaction comes down to an exchange of goods for money, via hands and facilitated by wallets.

We notice hands: well manicured, nail-bitten, paint-splattered, elegant, chunky. And we never cease to be amazed be the variety of wallets: battered ones, purses with stories, ones with photo inserts, small ones, huge ones, suspiciously neat ones…

The photos were taken between 1pm and 4pm over a two day period: no, we didn’t photograph everyone that came in because some customers just don’t look like they’d get it to be honest.

Cornershop Book Review #6: Ameliaranne Keeps Shop

AmeliaranneIn which we look at the Corner Shop in ‘literature’…
In the interests of academic research and a more interesting blog, we have recently taken to reading the odd book whilst propping up the counter. Not any old pulp fiction, we’ll have you know: there are strict criteria. The book must be about shop life. We wanted to know how the corner shopkeeper is being portrayed out there, and set the record straight if necessary. This exercise is also, of course, a very good way of lending gravitas to the shopkeeper’s image….
Synopsis: Ameliaranne is the eldest of six curly-haired, cutely-sketched children. They are very poor – their mother takes in washing to make ends meet – and when an invitation to a party arrives it is decided only three of the children can go as Mrs. Stiggins cannot afford new boots for the other three, whose boots have worn through. In the meantime, Ameliaranne is asked to keep shop for the village shopkeeper, Mrs. Poppet, who is off to meet her long lost sailor son. The little girl willingly agrees, and succeeds not only in selling some stuff, but also foiling an attempted robbery. We will leave you to guess the rest of this delightful tale: it isn’t hard.
Real Shop Cred: Well actually this scores 6/10 on the shop credometer.customer Notwithstanding the fact that prettily drawn lasses under a certain age shouldn’t really be left to run shops on their tods (would that it was that easy to find staff), the book actually packs in quite a lot of well-sketched corner stuff. Like the po-faced customer (to the left) flouncing out of the shop because Mrs. Poppet hadn’t asked her to run the shop. And because it sells such a wonderful range of provisions:

…candles and cheese and picture postcards, and lard and reels of cotton, and humbugs and jujubes and elastic…

Buy, borrow or avoid? Oh do buy…if you can find one. The twenty or so Amelairanne books were written in the 1920s and 30s, initially by a lady called Constance Heward, and subsequently by a range of writers (including Eleanor Farjeon): they are collectors’ items now, and we had trouble tracking down this particular edition. The most famous is the first of the series – Ameliaranne and the Green Umbrella – but they are all utterly, utterly charming.

Cornershop Gallery #5: Glen Country Store

Yup, OK, so Thanksgiving was over a week ago – but we thought we’d post this as our celebration thereof. Heck, it’s never to late to give thanks.
Americans really know how to do cornershops: just look at this store. It’s got a verandah and everything, and it’s been trading more or less constantly since 1840. Wonderful stuff. The image was taken by chocolatepoint; if you click through you’ll see that she also tells us a little of the building’s history.
Got some corner-shaped images of your own? Why not share them in our Cornershopkeeping Flickr pool?