Thursday, 21 August 2014

Hollybush Stores

It's been almost 27 years since Raju and Daxita Patel took over the Hollybush Stores, coincidentally about the same length of time that the Shah brothers have been running their hardware shop, MacDonalds, around the corner. Their longevity in business here, is testament to their hard work, and the importance of such local stores. Hollybush had previously existed in the terrace of the same name opposite, but had moved to its current location under the previous owner. When the Patels arrived here from their previous premises in Chelsea, they inherited not only the shop, but also an invaluable member of staff, Susan Kieley, who is still there to this day. And in that time, not a huge amount else has changed. Generations of loyal customers continue to shop there, many of whom the Patels remember as children coming in with their parents. That sense of continuity is vital for the wellbeing of any community. Customers love the knowledgable service, and the fact that you can buy a couple of loose nails or picture hooks, rather than a box full.
One of the things that has changed, is that due to the popularity of double glazing, sales of gas fires, which used to be a big part of the business, have now evaporated. It's to be hoped that businesses such as Hollybush and MacDonalds, continue to thrive, and don't go the way of gas fires. Use them or lose them!

Raju Patel behind the counter

Daxita & Raju Patel

24-28 Westow Street
020 8653 1258

Thursday, 14 August 2014

MacDonalds (Palace Home & Hardware)

There used to be two MacDonalds in Crystal Palace, and it perhaps came as a surprise to many when the global fast food outlet closed down a few years ago. However, it's great to see the hardware shop of the same name, continuing to thrive.
Many of the posts on this blog have reflected an area which is fast changing. We've seen the opening of wonderful new delis and restaurants, super-cool cafes within vintage stores, vintage stores within pubs,  pubs brought up to date, and even homes, both new, and the most unusual of conversions. But in the rush to 'improve', let's not lose the elements that keep this a functioning town centre. There are parts of London where you can buy designer clothing, Italian furniture and Porsches, but it's almost impossible to buy a pint of milk, let alone mop buckets, ant killer, light bulbs and pyrex ovenware. So I figured it was time to champion the unglamorous world of hardware. In a two part post, next week I will feature Hollybush Stores, but this week we are starting at MacDonalds.
Before the present building at 57 Westow Hill was erected, some may remember the site was apparently a used car lot. Presumably it had been a bomb site since the war. The new building first housed a freezer shop, before becoming a homewards and furniture shop, under the name JR Homecare. Then in 1987, brothers Yogi and Tino Shah took over, and for the last 27 years have run it as MacDonalds. The name followed the brothers from their previous premises in North London. The shop is an extraordinary Aladdin's cave, it's like the internet in physical form. You can buy almost anything, and if they don't have it in stock, they can get it for you. Shops like this may lack the scale, and parking possibilities of an out of town superstore, but actually you're much more likely, with the help of the knowledgable owners,  to find what you want, and at competitive prices. It's not only supermarkets that price check their goods. One of Yogi's biggest joys is when customers find just what they've been searching for, in his shop. And soon customers should be able to find even more, when their new website launches. (Currently under construction by Tim Sharville at Gunpowder Studios). Also coming in September will be a catalogue full of offers delivered to 13.5 thousand homes in the area. So next time you need  something to unblock drains, or put up shelves with, or a food processor, a tv aerial, garden twine, or superglue, or something you haven't even thought of yet, go and speak to Yogi and Tino, they're bound to be able to help!

Yogi Shah

57 Westow Street
020 8670 0696
Website (under construction)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Urban Orient

It feels like another storm's brewing, and, as seems to have become the norm in recent years, summer rain increasingly resembles the monsoons of Southeast Asia. So, with that in mind, the spicy cuisine of Vietnam is calling. Huong Nguyen opened Urban Orient on the site of an existing restaurant in September 2012. The food is a mix of traditional and contemporary Vietnamese, with the addition of that Hong Kong favourite, Dim Sum. The restaurant interior is a similar mix of influences, but dominating it is the stunning carved wooden screen, which comes from Thailand. Despite being a full time accountant, Huong managed to find time to set up the business, and put together the interior, and now spends her evenings and weekends working in the restaurant too. Having spent many years living in North London, she decided against opening a restaurant in the Vietnamese enclaves of Dalston and Hoxton, preferring instead the comparatively peaceful surroundings of SE19. Although coincidentally she was to discover that this corner of the Triangle has its own Vienamese community, with the dry cleaners and off license opposite being Vietnamese owned. Huong also feels a strong sense of camaraderie between her restaurant and some of her neighbours, such as the White Hart, taking deliveries on behalf of each other, or borrowing that proverbial 'cup of sugar' in emergency.
Well the possibility of a storm seems to have abated for now, so I may have to wander up the hill for some noodle soup and crispy wontons. See you there!

Huong Nguyen

Urban Orient
74 Westow Street