Once, long ago, I was walking north along the southern end of Lower Clapton Road when a man stepped from a shop and said to me: "Come inside and smell the leather." He wore a leather cowboy hat and leather boots. I know what (some of) you are thinking. You are wrong. "Come on in," he persisted. "Come in and smell that leather." I could, in fact, already smell it. Peering into the shop, I saw the bags, boots, coats and shoes that were emitting it.
I didn't take up the man's kind offer, though I was tempted. That shop, wherever it precisely was - I can't remember - has long since closed. But now there is a new one wooing passers-by with its seductive aroma. Mimi Berry moved in to number 102 in March. As the photo above suggests, her range of goods is more specialised and deluxe than the one with the man in a cowboy hat. Her English-made handbags and accessories are stocked in shops all over Europe and in Japan. She gets mentions in media much more important than this blog.
Like so much of the turnover of local traders, the arrival of Mimi in this neck of the woods adds another thread to the story of how the neighbourhood is changing and how others not far away are changing too.
She began her business with a stall in Spitalfields market and worked out of an address in Cheshire Street, off Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets, for ten years. But the Brick Lane area has become expensive. A huge rent hike forced Mimi to move out. She relocated to Hackney Road and has now fetched up here, joining refugees from the socio-economic entity known as Fashionable Dalston.
Mimi's shop replaces a newsagent where I once used to indulge my children with unhealthy snacks on their way back from swimming lessons at King's Hall. Maybe one day one them will buy one of Mimi's bags. Maybe one of them will even buy one for me.