London’s High Street: Shopping Small

London’s Marylebone High Street offers an eclectic mix of buttons, an independent bookseller and Bond Bingo.

I arrived here, in England’s capital, late last week. I came early to ensure the Omicron variant would not prevent me from sharing our first family holiday in nearly two years. For those Londoners still able to shop, we will head over to the High Streets—the equivalent of Main Street in the U.S.–where we find the one-of-a-kind gifts that small stores provide.

When the city rebuilt after London’s Great Fire in 1666, High Streets were designed to avoid congestion. Narrow alleys and lanes ran behind them. The 19th century marked the hallmark of the High Street when fine ladies and their gentlemen would go “promenading” to show off their finery and their intended—lady or squire.

Today there remain about 5,400 High Streets in the UK and six hundred in London’s boroughs. Retail businesses, like those on High Streets in London and Main Streets in America, depend on steady foot traffic that will come with the winnowing of Covid restrictions.

Shopping did not top my list of must-do activities after I landed at Heathrow, but there are tempting opportunities here. High Street at Walthamstow Market offers the greatest variety with five hundred stalls on the “longest street.” Here you will find an eclectic mix of fresh produce, ethnic foods, craft supplies, fabric, and the William Morris Gallery.

If it is women’s bespoke couturier you seek, we will head to Bermondsey on London Bridge Street. If you have a favorite four-legged creature, Holly & Lil offers homemade dog leads and accessories. Or if you fancy a Cuban Cigar, try Shepherd’s Market for Alfie Turmaus Tobacconist in London’s Mayfair. One of the city’s favorite French meals is nearby at Le Boudin Blanc, where we could stop for lunch or even a mid-day croissant.

For booklovers, Daunt Books on Marylebone’s High Street, so quintessential you will swear Hugh Grant could pop out as the Nottingham Hill bookseller. Here you can find James Bond’s Bingo with all seven main characters, ranging from Sean Connery to my favorite, Daniel Craig!

Continuing our quest for unique goods, we cannot skip the only button retailer in London: “The Button Queen,” also at Marylebone. You never know when you will drop a one-of-a-kind button. Bet you can find it here.

King’s Road in Chelsea, the hippy hangout from the 1960s, staged the Birth of Punk in the 1970s, and now is home to the Bluebird Restaurant. We move on to Gabriel’s Wharf, behind London’s South Bank, where we find Southbank Printmakers’ contemporary art, Wagumi’s Japanese design products, and Ganesha Indian homeware.

Near Hyde Park in the heart of the city, Connaught Village, has become a center for luxury goods and fine wines. Mud Australia serves up ceramics and Cocomaya sweet treats. These are but a few of the delights available in London.

Small businesses are essential to the economies in the US and UK. In the US, sixty-seven cents of every dollar spent with small businesses stays locally. Just forty cents of every dollar spent with national companies in America comes back to the original community where it was spent.

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