Last month, Perry Ukueku could scarcely have been further away from the Triangle. He was on a buying trip in Southeast Asia, sourcing decorative treasures for his long established shop, Coconut Trading. You may have noticed that the shop has also recently gone on a little trip itself, but not far, just to new premises which opened last year directly opposite the old shop on Church Road. He started trading there way back in 2000, long preceding most of the midcentury/vintage shops along the street, supplying a wide range of decorative items from Southeast Asia and Africa, whose timeless appeal has clearly endured.
Buddhas and beads, carvings and lighting, furnishings and fabric, there's a wealth of choice. It was on a similar far flung trip nearly 20 years ago that the idea for the shop first came about.
In a previous incarnation, Perry had trained as a psychotherapist. He was involved with a charity, managing a team of therapists, working with local authorities. As is typical of any career path, the more he was promoted, the less time he spent doing what he trained to do. Growing increasingly frustrated, he eventually packed it all in and went travelling around the world. En route he picked up so many items to take home, he ended up with a container load, and a plan to open a shop. On returning he knew that any shop would have to be close by. His previous job had involved a commute from West Norwood to Hampstead, which he was determined to avoid. In those days, Crystal Palace, which was one of Perry's preferred locations, had its own town centre manager, who let him know about the unit on Church Road which was to become his premises for the next 17 years. By his own admission, he went into retail quite naively, but he was clear that he wanted to source things directly, rather than buying from UK wholesalers, so as to ensure he wasn't just stocking the same old things as every other shop. It also enables him to develop relationships with the artisans and cooperatives he buys from. As far as possible, items are made from natural, and sustainable materials. A certain amount of patience is required however, as it takes on average 3 months to get his shipment back to Crystal Palace.
Back on the Triangle, it is no surprise to discover that among Perry's favourite places to eat out, are restaurants drawing on the same parts of the world as his stock: Urban Orient, Yak & Yeti, and Thai Crystal. Although his biggest weakness is for the chocolates at Blowing Dandelion.
So if you fancy a trip to somewhere exotic, but can only fit in 20 minutes on a damp Thursday morning, pay a visit to No.68 Church Road, it feels a world away from SE19.
|A little shrine resides in the corner behind the counter.|
Downstairs you will find larger pieces of furniture and lighting, both traditional and contemporary, set around a magnificent bejewelled recline buddha.
68 Church Road
020 8771 0700