Cigarettes, Wine and Magazines … ‘Sutha’ Remembers her Time as a Shopkeeper in Streatham


  • ‘Sutha’, who wants to remain anonymous, remembers her time as a shopkeeper in Streatham

Q: Why did you move to Streatham?

We moved to Streatham from Tooting in 1996 to be nearer to our newsagents and off-licence on the High Road.

Q: Did you work in Streatham, if so can you tell us about it?

I helped my husband in the shop. In 1986 when we bought the shop Streatham was a nice area. Our customers were mainly White and Asian. It was a perfectly fine area. We were the only small shop selling cigarettes and bus passes. We were happy.  Then one day our landlord wanted to increase the rent. I told him we couldn’t afford it. So we decided to apply for a licence for an off-licence and the landlord said he would increase the rent anyway. Then he refused to let us run the off-licence so we had to throw away all the stock that we’d bought!  Then the landlord died and his son took over. He was much better. We approached the son about the idea of an off-licence. He agreed and even reduced the rent! Later on we bought the shop leasehold. That was when interest rates were so high – we paid 18%!

My husband came from rural India so his English wasn’t so good but he was very good at maths. He didn’t get to go to college in India because he had responsibilities at home and had to work. When he came to England I suggested he learnt how to do accounts. He did a short course. Then he did computing. Shop work suited him.  We took a loan of £45,000 to get the stock to set up the shop.

By the time we had been here 2 or 3 years things started to get bad. Children began to hang around the shop and try to steal magazines and chocolates. Some threatened us as they wanted cash from the till. The worst time was the early morning from 7.30 to 9.00 and the afternoon from 3.00 to 4.30. I used to go to the shop to help my husband as he couldn’t risk being on his own because of the groups of school children. We also had to be careful not to sell them cigarettes under-age. In the end we sold the shop in 2000 as it was getting too difficult.

Q: Do you have memories of shopping in Streatham?

The area was good when Pratts was there. I remember going to Pratts. It was a nice store. When they moved out the area was going down. When house prices started rising in Brixton it became a safer place again. Tesco’s has changed the map again.

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