Friday, 5 February 2016

Brave Girl

"A nation of shopkeepers" is a quote usually attributed to Napoleon. Whether he said it or not, it was surely not meant as a compliment. Liz Perridge's family, however, are hugely proud of their history of shopkeeping. At the back of Liz's tiny shop, surely the smallest on the Triangle, is a little gallery of old sepia images of her grandparents and great-grandparents standing proudly outside their various premises, which dotted the area around Upper Norwood. They ran a successful chain of fish shops, selling both wet fish by day, and fish and chips in the evenings. Her parents, now retired, chose other professions, but her Dad now helps out on Saturdays in the shop, where he is known as Brave Dad.

Born in Auckland Road, Liz has always stayed close to her roots, and now shares a flat with her sister just off the Triangle. She studied footwear design at London College of Fashion, following a passion for shoes that she'd had since childhood, when she dreamed of opening a shoe shop. During her course, she did a one year placement at the National Theatre, which lead to her working as a theatre dresser, which she still does part time to this day. Currently she's working on the musical, Wicked. 
The childhood dream of having her own shop remained, but had always appeared too elusive, without substantial financial backing to get started. But then on a trip to the US a few years ago, she was inspired by the independent shops she saw in Brooklyn, many of which were pop-ups, an idea which wasn't common his side of the Atlantic back then. And so in September 2012, she followed her dream, and bravely opened her little shop. In reality it's half a shop, carved out of the kebab shop next door, but that suited Liz perfectly, taking her first small steps into business. The store is a happy mix of affordable things for the home, gift ideas, handmade jewellery, cards and novelty items. Liz buys on the basis that if she likes it, and would have it at home, then it will probably sell. While some is bought through larger wholesalers, she is also keen to support local and independent artists and makers. I spot a couple of Matt Bannister's marvellous dinosaur prints, and Beth Mander's ceramic bunting for example. And the support works both ways, with Liz having a very loyal band of customers. Though I've said it many times before on this blog, it's that sort of feeling which makes Crystal Palace the strong community that it is. Liz puts it down to being on top of a hill. "We're like an island community up here", she says, and adds that because the station is so far down the hill, it's a bit of an schlepp to come and go, while it possibly also serves as a bit of a deterrent to some outsiders, hence cutting us off slighting from the swirling city below. But then, as I've found, after 10 years in SE19, why would you ever want to leave? We have everything here, and Liz chips in, "we've got dinosaurs in the park, and you can see St.Paul's for God's sake!" Our conversation is punctuated by repeated hooting at the traffic lights outside, which is possibly the only fly in the local ointment as far as Liz is concerned.
As with many small businesses of this type, I imagine January and February must be pretty bleak after the Christmas excess, so do remember, particularly with Valentine's Day coming up, that local shops aren't just for Christmas. Our high streets would be much duller without the Brave Girls of this world such as Liz.




Brave Girl herself, Liz Perridge
86a Westow Hill
07460 233060

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