Although he wasn't the first to sell vintage in Crystal Palace, for many years, Andy Stem was its sole standard bearer on Church Road. He has had a presence on the street for 22 years now, which surely earns him the title of the Triangle's Vintage Godfather! Having spoken to many locals in the course of writing this blog over the last 18 months, his influence, and that of his shop, Bambino, is indisputable. Where he started, many others have followed. As well as running the shop, he has been very much involved in setting up Church Road market, and the annual Crystal Palace Festival. After so many years in the business, he might be forgiven for wanting to put his feet up, but as all the recent changes indicate, he seems to be moving up a gear. The shop has doubled in size, and it now includes the Triangle's coolest cafe run by Ant West, aka the Anarchista Barista. Next on the agenda, Andy is installing wonderful old pharmacy cabinets and an old fashioned cash desk. He's also planning to don shopkeeper's overalls in the manner of Ronnie Barker. "Fork Handles" anyone?
|Andy Stem, Vintage Godfather|
Like many others I've interviewed, setting up shop was a complete break from Andy's previous life as a scientific editor, and again, like many others, the stepping stone was learning the ropes on a market stall. Predominantly selling bikers' leathers, he also showed a taste for the quirky objects that are now the staple of vintage interior shops, but there is no formula at work in Bambino. It's a shop that ploughs a very individual furrow. Andy's biggest buzz to this day, is matching an obscure item to a customer. Over the years, he has seen Church Road change from a semi-derelict backwater to the thriving destination it now is, and is a firm believer that locally owned independent businesses are the way to regenerate the area in a way that retains its personality and individuality. Getting the cinema opposite reopened, would also provide a valuable boost, he adds.
The recent caffeine injection on the premises is clearly having its own regenerative effect. Like Vivienne's tea room down the road, it provides a reason for people to hang out, animating both the shop and the street. Ant, a recent settler from New Zealand, takes his coffee very seriously, and is on a mission to reeducate our palettes, sullied by years of coffee chain mocha-chinos and corporate marketing. Having operated from various establishments on the Triangle, it seems that as part of Andy's vintage emporium, Ant has found the perfect blend.
|Ant West, Anarchista Barista|
So, if you're not sure what you're after, head along to Bambino this weekend, and chances are Andy will have just the thing.
28-30 Church Road
020 8653 9250
Open, Thurs-Sun 10-6pm