I spent 2009 looking long and hard at empty shops, and where the high street was going wrong. The best bit of all that work was finding the bits where the high street gets it right; the Best Shops in Britain.
While I was sitting in Brixton’s quirky Secondo, I Tweeted that I had found my new favourite cafe in London.
Secondo, though, is much more than that. It’s a vintage clothes shop with a well-stocked bar (a whole cupboard for whisky), a choice of coffee, delicious cake and great company.
There are racks and racks of vintage clothing, with quirky and cute alongside classic cut suits. Shoes, bags, hats … the full works. And lots of it. None of this silly habit some secondhand shops have of just racking out a few nice items. Lots, so you have to get stuck in, rummage and explore.
There are tables and chairs dotted about amongst the racks, so shopping doesn’t have to be hard work. Big comfy battered armchairs too.
I was offered a choice of coffees, without any pretension – just straight coffees with great flavour tips. I had something very chocolately. And was given a free slice of carrot cake as well.
It’s also the kind of place where you can’t help but talk to other customers, although my conversation about a chinchilla fur coat got surreal when a complete stranger (pictured) said it was the kind of coat you’d have to have sex on… like I said, the kind of shop where you talk to other customers.
So what makes Secondo such a success? It’s more than a clothes shop and more than a cafe – it’s more than the two combined. It’s a little bit of lifestyle, a place to spend time rather than shop. It’s on a fairly bleak street (at least when I visited on a cold Wednesday) and it offers a little pocket of warmth and friendship. This is – on a small, independent, off-high street level – destination shopping.
Oh – and the staff are brilliant too.