In the six decades shopkeeper Errol Adem has lived in Stoke Newington he says its sense of community hasn’t wavered.
Errol, who runs N16 Flowers and The Green Room Café with his wife Oya, was born and raised here – he grew up in a four-storey Victorian House which stood where the fire station on Stoke Newington Church Street stands now.
He went to William Patten Primary School in the days when boys and girls were segregated (the girls’ playground was on the roof) and when children got the cane.
His father Ibrahim, who immigrated from Cyprus in 1949, was a cabinet maker and sold furniture from his shop at 86 Church Street (next to Olive Loves Alfie). Errol went on to pursue a career in printing until the 90s when in the midst of the crash the stress of having to make redundancies became too much.
(Green Room Cafe and N16 Flowers)
He said: “I owned a shop on Church Street which I rented out to a florist – when they decided to call it a day I took it over. I’d never been planning to run a flower shop but it has been good. People who buy flowers are nice people – you don’t get stressed working with flowers.
“We opened the café two years ago and it’s going well – it’s hard work and we’re always trying to improve. If I had one wish it would be that people forget about their phones and enjoy each other’s company.”
"People who buy flowers are nice people
– you don’t get stressed working with flowers."
Asked about the changes Stoke Newington has seen in his lifetime, Errol replied: “Church Street has changed dramatically but one thing it has never lost is its community spirit; it had it when it was a real blue-collar worker area and has it still now that it’s very middle class. The reason for that is because we have small, independent shops which work well off residential streets.
“People walk around and meet their local shopkeepers, and in turn we shopkeepers notice if someone is not on the street who usually would be. We are the old-fashioned Whats-app; we know what’s happening on the street and if Mrs Jones doesn’t buy her morning paper one day, we start asking around and we check on her.
“There is still a lot of crime here – it’s hidden with all the good façade we’ve got but there are dark sides to Stoke Newington. It was incredibly dark in the 80s though and even when my Dad was here in the 50s the big gangs were around – if you went out in the evening there’s no way a taxi driver would agree to bring you back.”
Errol met Oya at a friend’s house and they married in 1984. They have two children aged in their 20s, one of whom is a pastry chef at the Ritz and the other qualified as a barrister and now works as a teacher. In her earlier career Oya worked as a hairdresser and studied catering at college.
N16 Flowers and The Green Room Café are among the dozens of independent businesses offering discounts to members of the Local Buyers Club. The Club, which includes a discount card, encourages people to live locally, whilst saving customers money.
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