‘Support your local business – we’re back in Brixton’

two shop owners outside new premises
Mohammed and Shahida Shafiq outside their Atlantic Road shop

Support your local business is the message that Mohammed Shafiq wants Brixton to hear.

He and his wide Shahida are back in town after an exile of approaching five years. Their shop is on Atlantic Road, next to the entrance to the overground station.

Evicted, along with dozens of other long-standing Brixton traders, by Network Rail – in their case in September 2016 – they took their business to East Street market off the Walworth Road.

As they told the Blog in 2017, it was bustling, but it wasn’t Brixton.

Now Mohammed and Shahida are back in Brixton, but Atlantic Road is not the bustling shopping street that it once was.

man buying cloth in shop
A lockdown sewer buys more basic from Anjelina and Mohammed

“No-one’s really used to shopping here any more,” says Mohammed. “We need to get a local crowd coming back in.”

To help that happen S&S Textiles now has more to offer than it used to.

“We’re doing a lot of things which I’m hoping that local people like – furnishing fabrics, pure cotton digital prints and a lot of craft fabrics,” says Mohammed.

“Obviously we’re still doing the African laces, which is what we were famous for.”

The new shop will be in a good spot if Atlantic Road can return to its shopping roots.

But, as Mohammed says, “that’s going to be a major battle.”

And he expects that it will not be a brief one: “Nothing’s going to happen over night.”

When the Blog visits, there are two customers in the shop. This is busy these days, says Mohammed. When S&S Textiles first re-opened in Brixton, some days went by without a single customer.

shopkeeper displays cloth
Felt is among S&S Textiles’ new craft fabric offerings

“I’m a lockdown sewer,” says one customer, “so probably lots more customers will come out after lockdown,” he adds hopefully.

The other is buying felt – one of the new lines at S&S.

It’s a lot different from 20 years ago when there were several traders in Brixton selling cloth bought traditionally by people with and African and Caribbean heritage.

“Twenty years ago, I was a wholesaler. I used to supply a lot of shops in Brixton myself,” says Mohammed.

Now the Shafiqs have a beautiful shop, “but the whole process of closing the arches for years has been a disaster,” Mohammed says. “It’s been a dead zone.”

fabrics for sake in shop
Faux fur, felt, curtain lining, ‘crafty cotton’ and other new lines have joined the fabrics traditionally for sale in S&S Textiles
fabric for sale in shop

However, they are going to “give it a go”. In the long term you don’t know what is going to happen, he says.

He stresses he is not complaining – even about the rent that will eventually be three times what S&S Textiles was paying when evicted. “That side of things is fine,” he says.

The Arch Company, which bought most of Network Rail’s arches across the whole country is sticking to its plan to increase rents in steps.

“I can see there’s a young crowd here,” says Mohammed, “but they seem to be interested in only one thing – boozing and partying.

“We need to get a crowd that is interested buying stuff locally as well.”

interior of fabric shop