'Now we hope for the best' – independent traders in Muswell Hill

Michel Camilo, owner of Misk Boutique

Michel Camilo, owner of Misk Boutique - Credit: Joey Grostern

Changes to the dating scene and the inability to source new stock abroad are among the factors to have affected Muswell Hill traders during lockdown.

Non-essential retail and outdoor dining opened again on April 12, and further easing of Covid restrictions is due on May 17, and businesses in Fortis Green Road have spoken about how they have fared.

Subbie Bhambra, 51, owner of Shimco shoe shop said she fears for the future of her business, as she has been unable to order stock due to the pandemic. 

She said: “I go to Milan twice a year because I order six months ahead. It’s virtual now but I’m not doing that. I’m not wasting thousands and thousands of pounds of my money on stock that might not fit.”

Subbie fears stock shortages will result in lost earnings next summer. 


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But for now she said: “We can’t complain. Luckily enough in Muswell Hill I’m glad we haven’t lost a lot of shops.” 

Subbie Bhambra, owner of Shimco shoe shop

Subbie Bhambra, owner of Shimco shoe shop - Credit: Joey Grostern

Fasta, a pasta restaurant which recently celebrated it’s eighth birthday, relied on deliveries and takeaways to stay afloat during the lockdowns. 

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Waiter Gabriel Kochen, 31, said demand for outdoor dining has been crazy since reopening. 

He said: “When it’s just a little bit of sunny weather they’ll come in the masses, they will queue, they will be angry - and we’re happy that they’re angry because they want to sit.” 

He said deliveries and takeaways might continue to be important for the business, while a “PTSD” from Covid remains.

“Even I feel uncomfortable going to crowded places now after Covid," he said.

"I don’t feel completely at peace even though I’m young and in the flower of my youth - and very handsome!”

Fasta waiter Gabriel Kochen,

Fasta waiter Gabriel Kochen, - Credit: Joey Grostern

Morgan McGlynn, owner of Cheeses, across the road, said the pandemic forced her to close the business for the first time since she bought it at the age of 19.

“That broke my heart a little bit," said the 34-year-old, adding: “With us it was difficult only because I think it’s quite unique business in that, unlike others, we have quite an older clientele."

She said the shop lost customers to Covid: "That was pretty horrible.”

The third lockdown hit her business hard due to the loss of Christmas trading and Brexit supply delays at the border, she said. 

But she is feeling more positive since reopening: “We’re all back now it feels buzzy again. The fact that these neighbours we haven’t seen for year, that’s been really nice.” 

Cheeses has been serving younger customers recently, due to changes to online dating. 

Morgan said: “We have everyone coming in saying 'we’re having a dinner [date] outside' - and we all know they’re eating indoors.” 

Andrew Owen, of Muswell Hill's Men@107

Andrew Owen, of Men@107 - Credit: Joey Grostern

Andrew Owen, the owner of gifts and accessories shop Men@107 feels positive for the future of this business despite the uneven trading so far.

“By half past nine [this morning] I’d served four customers. It’s unheard of," said the 69-year-old. "And another day you can stand here until 12 o’clock.” 

Men@107 moved three doors down Fortis Green Road to a larger shop, but another lockdown forced another temporary closure.

Andrew said: “So we only had two and a half to three weeks in the shop, which were manic before the lockdown on Saturday night when I could’ve cried.

“I wasn’t too happy. But needs must, as they say.” 

Michel Camilo, 49, the owner of home decor store Misk Boutique said his business had held on, but that it had not been easy. 

He said: “We were devastated and it was a very bad time. Now we hope for the best, that’s all.”

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Shop Local - Credit: Archant


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