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.
The sign is on the door, the key is in the lock, and you’ve got just five minutes to make yourself a relatively tasty, semi-healthy lunch before the punters start hammering to get in, tutting and looking at their watches. What do you make? In this series we share Mr. and Mrs. Shopkeeper’s favourite five minute recipes…
Egg Paste Sandwiches (Hint – they’re better than they sound)
Ah, now, you won’t have had this before. Mrs. Shopkeeper caught her sister-in-law making this as a snack for herself one day, and decided it looked revolting. And then she tried some…
splodge of oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
pinch of basil (optional)
1 fat wholemeal bap (unlike the one pictured above)
Pour a dribble of oil into a wee frying pan and dollop in the tomato paste. Fry and stir and stir and fry for around 30 seconds, and then crack in the egg, beating it so it kind of looks scrambled. Add any optional flavouring (it won’t need salt as most tom paste is far too salty anyway) and take off the heat. Slice your bap, and fill with the eggy gloop. This is best eaten straight away, but bizarrely actually works cold as well – good for those days when you can’t actually justify keeping the customers out any longer….
Got to feel sorry for shops that aren’t allowed to crank up the volume when they’ve got a lot on. Or those that have to listen to lift music on endless loop. Anyway, this track by Daft Punk is pretty much in our top twenty for that funky retail work out that is otherwise known as stacking the shelves. Enjoy…
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.
Spotted in Kentish Town by eagle-eyed DJ Connell. Unfortunately we do not have the name of the shop (anybody?), but surely this is London’s quirkiest key-cutter… Any shopkeeper who writes little signs has our vote. And then, just look at that desk, that till…. This isn’t just cornershopkeeping: this shop is a labour of love. And humour.
Do let us know if there are any similarly eccentric cornershops near you. Or better still take pictures and join our Flickr pool.
In 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. 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.
Impressive, eh? Mr. and Mrs. Shopkeeper are too embarrassed to show you what their chaotic maximalist display looks like, and so they borrowed this Flickr image from left-hand. Have a very merry corner-shaped Christmas, and we’ll be back with more behind-the-counter silliness very soon.
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?
As shiny inane pop goes, this 1979 offering from Lipps Inc is about as good as it gets. Perfect, brainless tippety tappety stuff to enable you to get those shelves filled in no time. And the boxes broken up for recycling. And the kettle on. And draw a crowd of intrigued passers by staring through the shop window.
Of course, the outfit is all important, and for this to work you totally need to dress up in strange lycra pink outfits. And boots. If it’s any help the movement should be:
Arms down, body down, grasp, lift, stack. Back left, back right, arm shimmy, hip shimmy, forward left, forward right. Arms up, jazz hands, up, arms down, body down… DC al fin
NB: This also works quite well for dusting.
Most shop-shaped stuff is within the shopkeeper’s control: how the shop looks, works, what it sells… But when it comes increasing footfall on the nation’s the high streets and bringing the punters to the area in the first place, he can at best hope for co-operation with his fellow traders and a decent, forward looking, financially flush council.
We are very lucky where we are, as our fellow traders are the biz. And the council…well, they get some stuff right. Occasionally. One thing we can’t fault them on is their street cleaning.
It doesn’t take long for unattended, unswept streets to attain a state of litter anarchy. Leave it a day, and there are fast food wrappers blowing along the gutters like urban tumble weed, and the pigeons have declared a public peck-fest. STREET SWEEPERS ARE VERY IMPORTANT. And our local ones are all ace. Cheerful, thorough, obliging (that means not leaving ugly piles of bin bags for collection right outside our shop) and thoughtful (that means sweeping in between the metal frames of our shutters).
The gentleman in the picture is Martin Millet. He works the afternoon shifts in our patch, and tells us that he really likes his job. He’s been at it for three years, and in all the time he’s been passing the shop he has unfailingly been a smiley-sweeper. The only bit he doesn’t like, unsurprisingly, is the cold. No amount of (dayglow) jackets and (council issue) gloves can entirely keep out the creeping cold for anyone who works the streets during a city Winter.
We asked him to regale us with tales of unusual roadkill or unexpected finds in pavement cracks and manhole covers: sadly he had none. But he did have a strange twinkle in his eye when he was speaking to us….