Since we opened our doors I have been asked on a number of occasions why on Earth we set up shop on Green Lanes? The general line taken was that Green Lanes was an odd place to open a new artisan coffee shop, particularly since it was known more for its Turkish kebabs, social clubs and somewhat darker past than anything else.
The thing is, I come from these streets. My family have had a base in and around Newington Green all of my life, and still do. I know the area like the back of my hand, having spent the best part of 30 of my 40+ years within 5 minutes of Newington Green and Green Lanes. It is a part of me. I was aware of the reputation of Green Lanes because I have lived through it. I am happy and proud to have been able to call myself friends with many of the local residents and traders here over the years.
There have been many changes to the area over my lifetime and much of this has been for the better. The troubles it used to suffer from have been resolved through the intervention of the council and police, and those days of the rough underbelly of Green Lanes are now mainly behind us. For the last five to ten years the street has been ready, patiently waiting to take part in the revolution that seems to be going on all around it.
The adjacent and increasingly-popular and trendy area around Stoke Newington Church Street has turned into a must-have location for yuppies, trendies and other ‘ies’. Newington Green was revamped and is now a wonderful hub of café and restaurant life growing in popularity by the day. Now Dalston too, once famed for being one of Hackney’s more troubled neighbourhoods is rapidly being reinvigorated with bustling hipsters seemingly now bursting from its pavements.
Despite all of this, Green Lanes remains underdeveloped and underutilised. It’s a street that’s not been invested in and hasn’t reached anywhere near its potential. It’s caught by a past and a reputation that it hasn’t been able to quite shake off.
That’s the thing about reputations. They frequently precede you and they often stick far longer than they should.
So, going back to the question “why here?”, here’s my answer:
The Green Lanes and Newington Green area is simply wonderful. It has a reputation locally of having a village-like atmosphere (rare for London) where neighbours talk to each other and everyone generally gets on and looks after each other. I know the area in depth and I can see that it’s about to burst into the spotlight sometime soon. It will not be long before Green Lanes is filled with new shops and a vitality that comes from a healthy high-street and happy residents.
I know this because I can point you towards between six and eight new shops that have opened up in the last year and a half. These are not small, temporary, badly conceived ventures. On the contrary, we now host gems that any neighbourhood would be proud of, such as top-class restaurants, a modern multi-functional creative coworking space, an organic vegetable shop, a classy new hair salon and more. We even have regular markets appearing on this stretch of road. Of course you also have an artisan coffee shop called Tangerina. All of this would have been completely unthinkable only a few years back.
The area is even the focus of a council-led regeneration scheme and has it’s own Green Lanes Residents’ and Traders’ Association (GLTRA) which was formed to foster and support a thriving and safe local community and drive economic prosperity and vibrancy in our local commercial areas. The traders and residents are working together in a way never before seen in Green Lanes, creating new opportunities and driving positive new community initiatives like Childrens’ play-out days.
This is why it’s a great place to be. We got in early, and I can’t wait to see what the area will transform into over the next little while. This is why we are supporting the GLTRA and working with the other traders to support each other. It is, after all, in everyone’s best interests.
This is why we opened here and why we think Green Lanes has a very positive future.
I only hope that it can retain the best bits of its past, such as some of the delicious local Turkish restaurants, while it evolves into the modern high street of the future that it will surely be.