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BLACKHEATH’S BEST INDEPENDENTS

With independent businesses facing tough trading conditions, The Guide Resident chats with some of the local stores keeping our high streets vibrant and unique

Black Vanilla

Oliver Sharp runs the Blackheath and Greenwich branches of Black Vanilla gelateria. The former opened in January 2010, the latter, which has a champagne bar upstairs, opened in January 2012.

How do you feel about our local high streets?

For both Greenwich and Blackheath their strength is the independent businesses, and it will be a grave shame if we lose any more. With Blackheath there’s that village culture, and the tourists here in Greenwich really appreciate the variety of small independently run shops.

What’s key to your success?

Our gelato chef is amazing – we went through a lot to find the right one! At the moment our real focus is on the product and customer service, making sure we maintain high standards.

Why did you decide to open a Champagne bar in Greenwich?

We’re trying to weather the downturn and diversify. We tried to get the licence for upstairs for the Olympics, but it fell through and we had to reapply, which caused big a problem. Towards summer we’ll be developing that and promoting this as a place to come for drinks before heading next door to the local nightspot. We’re also working to get our gelato into other gelaterias, cafes and restaurants.

5 College Approach, Greenwich SE10 9HY; 020 8858 3283 and 32 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath SE3 0AX; 020 8852 0020

 

Raffles

Michael Caine has been running Raffles in Blackheath for 13 years. The upmarket boutique stocks men’s and women’s fashions and accessories that stand the test of time, as well as gifts for children.

How do you feel about our local high streets?

Here in the village our lifeblood is the local community. It’s the individual shops that give the place its character – how many businesses can you walk into these days and be served by the owner? There’s a greater passion there. We don’t want Blackheath to become another generic high street full of big labels.

What are some of your favourite local shops?

Selectrics on Tranquil Vale is an amazing shop, it covers anything you might need for the house or home, from dishwashers to light bulbs. We also have two very good independent opticians, and the restaurant selection is incredible. But there are not a lot of independents, and that’s the sad thing I’ve seen the demise of since I’ve been here. I support the village with all my spare cash, whether it’s a restaurant, bar or buying gifts. I’m very passionate about that.

49 Montpelier Vale, Blackheath SE3 0TJ; 020 8852 0018

 

Penny Champion at Champion Wines

Penny Champion at Champion Wines

Champion Wines

Penny Champion worked in the wine trade for 25 years before deciding to open her own wine shop in Chislehurst in June 2011. Penny favours the high quality, diverse wines of smaller growers.

How do you feel about our local high streets?

The high streets are facing a range of dilemmas according to the local demographic – from high rents and parking to a lack of investment and internet shopping. I feel optimistic about what the future holds for our high streets though – we traders must stick together when it comes to promoting our businesses and I’m pleased to say we are working better together in Chislehurst than ever before.

 Do you think the local council could do more to help? 

Government and local councils could help by carefully considering rates, making parking easier, better planning of street furniture, and perhaps setting up a co-operative local delivery service shared between shops.

What do you love about running your own business? 

It is hard at times but knowing it’s ours and not having to report to anyone else makes it all the better. There is a great feeling of community spirit here, and there’s nothing better than moving people away from cheap supermarket plonk to better quality wine.

Why Chislehurst High Street?

I wanted to bring something new to the area with a wine shop that offers artisan cheeses, a deli and wine bar. I fell in love with the view opposite the shop of the Chislehurst pond – it’s great for the wine bar as people sit with their wine and cheese while watching the wildlife.

17 High Street, Chislehurst BR7 5AB; 020 3581 9935; championwines.co.uk

 

Arty Globe

Isaac Lilos and Hartwig Braun started out with a stall in Greenwich Market in 2008, selling Hartwig’s hand-drawn fish-eye perspective cityscapes and architectural images. Six months later they moved into their first shop, before expanding further into their current shop three years ago. They have since collaborated with The British Museum, British Airways and Crossrail.

How have things changed since you arrived at the market?

The economic climate has changed a lot since we started. Shoppers are less impulsive and some longstanding shops have closed, which is really sad. But I always look on the flipside, there are spaces now for new traders – there have been a lot more designer-makers and artists coming to the market and that’s great because Greenwich really supports and nurtures artisans – it’s an incubator. There have been a lot of things said about the bigger brands coming – like Costa and Jamie Oliver – but these brands do their research, and that they’ve decided to come to Greenwich means they predict really positive long-term possibilities, and that should be encouraging to all of us.

What’s the secret to your success?

It depends on how you define success. For us it’s the ability to do things we love, earn a living and grow our business organically. Anything that comes above that is a bonus. I think we’ve been able to achieve that thanks to Hartwig’s unique hand drawings and our ethos of making the artwork as accessible as possible. We could have just gone down the route of prints and canvasses, but anyone can take away something with them, like a keyring or an Oyster card holder.

Do you have any advice for those looking to set up their own business?

You’ve got to be proactive – go out and create opportunities. Gone are the days when you can just set up a shop and wait for customers to come in. You need to constantly work at it. If things change around you, you have to change and adapt. It’s about really engaging people, communicating and using ocial media, and taking everything on board

 

15 Greenwich Market SE10 9HZ; 020 7998 3144; artyglobe.com

Isaac Lilos and Hartwig Braun at Arty Globe

Isaac Lilos and Hartwig Braun

2nd Impressions

2nd Impressions opened 29 years ago as a chocolatier (one of the first in London to import Belgian chocolates). After moving to larger premises, owner Eilish Mahon expanded into toys, gifts and kids clothes.

What’s special about your shop?

We sell good quality brands like Jellycat and Moulin Roty and we offer a great service – a lot of the customers are friends. At Christmas and Easter we have wine and chocolates for our customers to say thank you. This shop is like a baby for me, I love every inch of it.

10 Montpelier Vale, Blackheath SE3; 020 8852 6192

 

Greenwich Baby

Coral Gayle-Reveault has been running Greenwich Baby, which sells organic and Fairtrade kids products, for eight years.

How do you differentiate yourself from other larger shops?

It’s about how you treat people. I treat people how I like to be treated. If somebody doesn’t give me good customer service, I just leave. As Mr Selfridge said, ‘Customer is King’. I love working here – I love the area, the people, the mums… the lot!

52 Greenwich Church St SE10 9BL; 020 8858 6690

Greenwich Baby

Coral Gayle-Reveault has been running Greenwich Baby for eight years

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