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Sports shop scores an ace for local traders

PUBLISHED: 12:18 20 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:23 07 September 2010

Josie Hinton A popular sports shop in Kentish Town has beaten the recession to celebrate its 60th anniversary this week. Ace Sports will mark its longevity on Kentish Town Road from its humble beginnings as a shoe repair shop in 1949. Six decades later t

Josie Hinton

A popular sports shop in Kentish Town has beaten the recession to celebrate its 60th anniversary this week.

Ace Sports will mark its longevity on Kentish Town Road from its humble beginnings as a shoe repair shop in 1949.

Six decades later the store is providing sporting equipment to clubs and teams across London.

Founded by the Atkinson family, the shop is now run by Nick Mavrides, 57, who joined the family-run business 23 years ago.

"It's still exactly the same layout as it was then," he said. "That was part of the agreement for me taking over. I've not altered anything.

"Back then we stocked all the old sports equipment of that time - old leather footballs, wooden tennis rackets, squash rackets and so on. We've always been here to provide proper sports equipment, we're not fashion driven. That's how we've survived all this time when most of the other independents in Kentish Town have been forced to close their doors."

For more than half a century the small shop has provided opportunities for young people in Kentish Town seeking work in the retail sector.

"We've seen some real success stories," said Mr Mavrides. "One girl is now managing her own branch of Next. We can teach them things the big stores can't - how to provide good, friendly customer service that you only get with a local shop."

Ace Sports is also well known for kitting out local football teams across Camden and Westminster, with personalised strips.

"We still produce most of the football kits used for Saturday and Sunday leagues in the area," said Mr Mavrides. "We do our own graphics and printing, and we work for the local authority."

But despite its popularity, Mr Mavrides, who chairs the Kentish Town business alliance, said the long-serving shop may not be around for very much longer if high-street rents continue to rise.

"Most of the independents have gone now and I'm in the process of scaling down my business because we just can't afford the rents," he said. "They've gone up by 50 or 60 per cent each year. It's far too much for independent retailers.

"It's a shame because high streets form the heart of communities. They're where people meet and talk to each other and form bonds. But if it carries on, they won't be around that much longer.

"We've lost over 30 businesses in the last nine years, and we're losing more every day. I'm hoping to be able to stay around as it's my only source of income and I've got two young daughters. But if the rents keep increasing, there's no way I'll be able to afford to stay in this area."

As one of the few surviving independent retailers in the area, Mr Mavrides, a self-confessed optimist, vowed to continue in the battle against the recession.

"I'll fight to the bitter end for what I believe in," he said. "I've got a lot of fight still in me so we'll see what happens.


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