One of my smallest daughter's favourite things is pressing her nose against the glass of the Kidsmania shop opposite the Round Chapel and dreaming. All those fabulous posh frocks! Every so often, usually just before Christmas she's actually got through the door and tried things on. Then, miraculously, a few days later one of those fabulous posh frocks would emerge from a parcel and my smallest daughter would be transformed into a glamorous princess, radiating style and grace.
You might have noticed that those days are soon to end. For the past few weeks Kidsmania has been holding a closing down sale and expects to shut its doors to customers for the final time at the end of this week. It will be a sad occasion for Neeta and Ashok Daryanani, who opened the shop in 1976 when Neeta was pregnant with their son Neil - who's grown up to be part of the family firm too - and the bottom end of Lower Clapton Road was very different. Only Harris Electrical and Danny's Motor Shop survive from that time.
Ashok says that sales have been declining for quite a while. He puts most of the blame on the road becoming one of TfL's red routes and says that sales have plummeted by 70 percent in the two years since cameras were installed to aid enforcement. There's one one a pole up by Harris's and another just outside the health centre. Both are trained on that stretch approaching the junction where bottlenecks often occur. Ashok says they've proved a huge deterrent to customers who arrive by car: "They stop, they get a ticket, they don't come back."
Like every shop that has become established in the neighbourhood Kidsmania tells a story about its locality and a wider London too. Its lifeblood has been big church occasions: weddings, christenings, first communions. It has long catered for adults as well as children and became a magnet for, in particular African, Irish and also traveller families seeking suitable attire for big events. The wholesale side of the business will continue - its website is here - but even though I've been only an occasional customer, I'm going to miss the shop. So will my little girl.