Traditional Shops of London

Traditional Shops of London

I’ve spent my life in retail and have had the good fortune to make a modest living in a community of 10,000.  My profession as a Leathersmith has always made me feel that I was born 100 yrs to late. The 1870’s was a good time to be a harness maker, shoemaker or a shopkeeper. I was reborn one hundred years later and my wife and I have pursued this curious lifestyle with our leather workshop the Buffalo Billfold Company without any regret.

We have worked Friday nights and Saturdays for perhaps 30  years.   We are in our 40th year of business and have reason to reflect on our business and our lives.   Our community has offered us unflagging patronage over the years. Most leather goods stores exist in towns over 100 to 200,000 in population.   We are grateful for each and every customer that has crossed the threshold of our store.

The demographics of Worthington have changed over the past 15 years and we have found ourselves seeking more distant markets to maintain our business. Many new immigrants filling the houses in Worthington. have less discretionary income or have limited interest in our products.   Either way, we are grateful and appreciate  those past and present.

We also ponder the many hours we have spent at the work bench over the years and realize that we might have built up an additional 500 to 600 vacation days!

My insatiable interest in history, people and culture is leading us on a new adventure.  I gravitate to London, the largest city in all of Europe, a city that I seem to easily find my way around!   In New York City I am a hopeless wayfarer, I can’t seem to figure right from left, north from south and east from west.

London is my City! The tube (subway) is clean, well lit, subway maps are easily understood, everything runs on time, there is very little predatory behavior and everyone is just seems so polite!  We have visited London a few times in the past and have enjoyed its museums and shops and castles and rivers and all things British.   It is our intention to explore this city in the near future in a way that fits with our own interests.

We are going to explore the Traditional Shops of London.  Shops that have been open and are still open after a century or two.   We are using a book called “Still Open” as a map and guide to this curious endeavor.   It is our intention to visit many shops, shoemakers, hatters, umbrella makers, walking stick/cane shops, cafes, coffee importers, and places of business that have more than a century of “Open” under their belts.  We’ll buy a baguette or bun and some meat from the butcher who’s meat market has been purveying its trade in the same location for over 200 years.  I’ll get my hair cut at a barbershop that has been located in the same locale for longer than I’ve been alive.  We’ll go to L. Cornelissen and Son – The Artist’ Colourmen established 1855-a specialist supplying artists with niche art materials and pigments.

We invite you to follow along with us as we explore not only the high streets and arcades of London but also the back alleys of SoHo and the Hackney districts.

Bill Keitel

Portobello Road (Part 1)
Traditional Shops of London (Part 2-1)
Traditional Shops of London (Part 2-2)
Speakers Corner – London (Part 3)

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