Cornershop Heroes #4: The Pest Control Man

AdrianEvery cornershop relies on a network of corner-shaped professionals. In this thrilling mini-series we meet some of the behind-the-scenes men and women that keep the indie retail world going.

Eurgh! Bugs! Pests! Mice…or worse! Yup – even if you are part of the 5% of the population that is fascinated by our cities’ low-life and vermin, you will have to agree that they are not good for business. Any retail business in London (and most big, old cities) that claims not to need a pest control contract is, frankly, living in denial.

And before you ask: Mr. & Mrs. S. have not (now, or ever) got (or had) bugs, or pests, or mice. But you know that old thing about you never being more than 6 feet away from a rat when you live in London? And you know that (wonderful wonderful) film Joe’s Apartment? These little things all resonate with Mrs.S. Prevention is most definitely better than panic in this case, and whilst Master Shopcat has his moments, they rarely coincide with the moments that he is actually required to do anything. And so, yes, they have a bug blasting agent, a jolly giant of a man called Adrian (that’s him in the picture – give him a cheery wave) from a very nice family company called Beaver House. It took a while before Mr.S. could convince Mrs.S. not to call Adrian every time she saw a spider, but they have now been working together happily for over ten years.

Adrian is one of the more heroic of our cornershop heroes, as he has to deal with stuff that would send most of us scrambling for the nearest chair or at the very least squealing in horror. Somewhat disturbingly, most pest controllers seem to be infeasibly happy in their job, and Adrian is no exception. He will regale you with tales of horrific infestations elsewhere using the same tone that most people use to tell bedtime tales. He is also, somewhat worryingly, a keen cook. Best not to dwell on this fact too long.

Anyway – give that man a roach-shaped medal and a bug-winged cape.


Cornershop Heroes #3: the Street Sweeper

Every cornershop relies on a network of corner-shaped professionals. In this thrilling new mini-series we meet some of the behind-the-scenes men and women that keep the indie retail world going.

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….

Cornershop Heroes #2: The Window Cleaner

Every cornershop relies on a network of corner-shaped professionals. In this thrilling new mini-series we meet some of the behind-the-scenes men and women that keep the indie retail world going.

The window of a shop is its public face, and as such it is quite the most important part of an establishment’s structure. If a shop’s window is shit, then people simply won’t come in. Of course it’s up to the shopkeeper to fill it with enticing morsels and artistic displays, but the window itself also needs to be clean.

Now we have heard that some very hard working shopkeepers clean their own windows. We are full of admiration for this, as it is indeed a task fraught with complications: smears, water in the armpit, falling off the ladder, chaffed hands, wet everything…not to mention the irrational-but-persistent feeling that an awful lot of people are laughing at you as you jiggle up and down.

We tried to do it ourselves. The first time Mrs.Shopkeeper was up a ladder covered in suds someone came along and asked if they could buy the ladder (#youcouldn’tmakeitup). The second occasion, just a week after the shop opened, it was a blastingly cold December day and her knuckles were bleeding from the combination of wet and icy. Just when she was about to burst into tears and admit window-cleaning defeat, a little voice behind her said: “Looks like you need a window-cleaner…”

Mark Mason has been our window-cleaner ever since. We regard him as one of our sounder petty cash investments: a fiver a fortnight is hardly going to give the accountant palpitations. Mark is relentlessly cheerful, whatever the weather, and seems sublimely happy in his job. We asked him why, and he said he genuinely loves being out and about meeting people all day. He has been doing the job for over 20 years, and took over from his father: altogether they have had their Peckham round for around 60 years.

Seems the only thing that pains him about his work is the increasing homogenisation of the high streets. Corporate is as bad news for independent cornershop heroes as it is for the cornershops themsleves. Oh and yes: we did ask him if he had any, er, confessions (window cleaner? geddit? okay – you’re probably too young): sadly he didn’t.

We shouldn’t really share all our trade secrets with you, but if you live in or near SE15 and are fed up with wet armpits, give Mark a ring on 07932 085932 and he or one of his little helpers will zoom round with their super squeegees to help you out.

Cornershop Heroes #1: the fridge man

Every cornershop relies on a network of corner-shaped professionals. In this thrilling new mini-series we meet some of the behind-the-scenes men and women that keep the indie retail world going.

First up is FRIDGE MAN. Now of course not every corner shop has a fridge man: bookshops and barbers and betting shops can function without chilled facilities. But for every caff, butcher, greengrocer, general grocer, chippie, restaurant and fishmonger in the land, the fridge repair man is one of the most hallowed of visitors, bringing relief after hours of tech-fail related stress. A fridge that is running a temperature is very bad news: everything has to be emptied out, the chilled goods need to be housed elsewhere (assuming the problem has been detected in time and the contents are not already ‘off’). And then you sit and pray that the thing just needs a little gas rather than a new compressor.

Trouble is, there are a lot of not-very-good fridge men out there, and so when you find one that does the job at the right price, you hang on to him. He is always busy, so your heart soars when you get through and he says he’s on the way. You make him tea. You fight off the urge to hug him when he tells you your fridge will live to chill another day. And you bite your tongue when he tells you how much it will cost.

Our fridge man is called Hammid, and he works for London Refrigeration. He’s been fixing fridges and accepting cups of tea for around twelve years now. He seems happy in his job. And he says he never turns his phone off or turns jobs away. If you do decide to get in touch with him, tell him we sent you…