When visitors descended upon Stratford for the Olympic Games last year they were delivered to the site through the innards of the behemoth Stratford Westfield Shopping Centre. Despite Londoners’ fears – and business owners’ dreams – it seemed like this was where they stayed, with the city showing limited signs of the mass invasion of sports fans, media and tourists that was expected.
For the few who did take the path less trodden, what they would have found just a short skip down the Regent’s Canal, was a thriving East London shopping scene and in particular, the independent retail community of Wilton Way.
Like the futuristic shopping center at Stratford, Wilton Way has it all – just a tad more independent. The migration of independent businesses to this suburban Hackney street began with a café - what else - and the community has since grown around it. On one short stretch of pavement there is enough variety to keep you from ever having to leave. A hair salon, a grocer, a cake shop, a vintage store, a bookshop and a wine merchant; with vacant shop fronts - or else bookmakers - a common sight in London, is the rise of the niche independent shopping street the answer?
On Wilton Way you could start your day with a trip to Wilton’s Cafe, the coffee shop that started it all. Indulge yourself with one of Hackney’s best flat whites accompanied by mashed avocado and lemon zest on sourdough toast.
After breakfast move onto The Other Side of The Pillow. Here you’ll find a jaw-dropping collection of vintage, Made in USA Vans sneakers and vintage homeware. If the sun’s out, you’ll need some shades – have a rummage through the case of vintage frames.
Stroll along the parade, stop off at Toppers of Hackney for a haircut and grab a Hackney Gazette from the convenience store next door for while you wait.
Pop into Borough Wines and sample the day’s offering, which comes dispensed from chic wooden barrels into refillable bottles. Once you’ve had your vino fix browse J. Glinert where stationery, magazines, Hackney literature and luxury grooming products adorn the minimalist space.
By now it could be time for afternoon tea, in which case there is nowhere like Violet. Opened by chef and American transplant Claire Patak, this is the place that brought the whoopie pie to Hackney – although we would recommend the cinnamon bun.
Wilton Way is much more than an independent shopping street that attracts likeminded retailers. It is a community, and what community would be complete without its own radio station? Operated from a corner of Wilton’s Café, London Fields Radio broadcasts live music, cultural shows and local interest pieces to the people of Hackney.
Locales like this mean more power to the independent and less reliance on homogenized high streets. So if you haven’t made it off London’s beaten track yet, take some directions to Wilton Way.
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