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Press & News Blog

How motherhood gave Sophie Taylor the confidence to take on The Deli Downstairs in a week

Many dream of owning their own business but rarely do. Sophie Taylor, the owner of The Deli Downstairs had no idea in 2019 that she’d shortly be running her own business and within months navigating it through a pandemic.
 
Working full time as MD of the artisan bakery, The Flour Station, as a single mum, Sophie knew that she would need greater flexibility to accommodate the school schedule with Reception looming. If there was ever a time to be her own boss, now was it. But how and where?
 
By chance she found herself talking to one of her customers, Sarah, who having set up the Deli Downstairs ten years previously with her husband Theo, was reluctantly about to close up shop, having failed to find a buyer for the business.  A local resident herself, Sophie couldn’t quite believe this ideal opportunity had suddenly presented itself. Fate seemed to be smiling on her till she realised that she had barely a week to secure the deal before they shut for good. Others may have baulked at the prospect; customers, employees and suppliers had all been told of the demise of the deli, she would not only have to secure it financially but resurrect those contacts within days. Defying all the odds she pulled it off, losing only a few members of staff who had already found employment elsewhere.
 
“It was really important to Sarah and Theo that I wanted to honour their vision and in return, I inherited a huge amount of goodwill and support both from them and their loyal customers.”
 
Four months into the business, the pandemic struck, “Obviously, I feared the worst but the locals and staff were amazing. We rearranged the shop to create space, reintroduced fresh fruit and veg and squeezed in more stock wherever we could.”
 
The beauty of independent businesses is that, unlike the big stores who have long supply chains and complicated procurement procedures, small shops can quickly adapt to customers’ requirements. Nappies and Soda Stream canisters were brought in, yes, soda stream! “I couldn’t believe it, it’s one of our best selling items!” Sophie laughs at my incredulous expression, “A customer requested it once, so I bought some in and they sold out in days. Now I can’t get enough of them! I tried to identify where there were gaps.  People were anxious and there were queues everywhere so I wanted to create a local one-stop-shop that was safe which people could rely on to get everything they needed.”
 
Constantly reactive, The Deli learnt of  shielding customers unable to get deliveries from the supermarkets so they began taking orders and delivering by bike around the area. If anyone is struggling to get out, they can visit www.thedelidownstairs.co.uk and place an order for next day delivery or collection.
 
Always nimble and attentive, as lockdown lifted she looked to Pasta Next Door, the pop-up restaurant adjacent to the Deli which had been temporarily repurposed as an overflow stock room.
“It’s near impossible to know what is going to happen one day to the next right now so I decided to make the restaurant into a more flexible space that could morph into whatever was needed in the here and now.”
 
So what do your customers need right now? “Wine! No seriously, it occurred to me that there aren’t many places where you can go without having to make a reservation for dinner.  The pubs are all full, money is tight and arranging a babysitter for a whole evening is expensive but what if you had somewhere round the corner where you could enjoy a good glass of wine, pick on some charcuterie and cheese and it be Covid safe.”
 
Whatever the future holds it is clear that Sophie will approach it with great humour, nimbleness and a positive attitude. The local community in Victoria Park have already made her Deli a staple, in no time I’m sure you will be a convert.
 
The Deli Downstairs is situated on 211 Victoria Park Rd, Hackney, London E9 7JN

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How a session stylist revolutionised hairdressing in Hackney

I initially was introduced to Kennaland though a friend who raved about Sophia, the founding partner and Studio Director in Hackney. After some initial googling I learnt that Sophia had been voted ‘The Best Colourist for Blonde’s’ by Time Out, a determined blonde myself, I was intrigued and then overjoyed to discover she was on my doorstep, in London Fields.

Gowned up, I’m surrounded byscreens angled away from the window which cleverly create the illusion of exclusivity. Dry flowers hang from the ceiling and dress the wash station area. The environment is tranquil but far from sleepy. Sophia, originally from South London is immediately welcoming, clearly knowledgeable but thankfully devoid of any pretentiousness. She is the friend who would break the truth to you kindly so you act on the advice rather than ignore it. It is clear, she knows what she is doing.

Kennaland was originally based above the Cat and Mutton on Broadway Market, where it was a home for session stylists to create looks for shows and photoshoots. Over time Sophia and her Co Founder, Kenna, found that they were using the space more and more for private clients. In 2012 Sophia’s first child was born and her need for consistency in her life rather than the erratic nature of the shows, made her take the leap to conventional hairdressing. The pub was being sold and Kenna moved to New York where he opened their sister salon in fashionable Greenpoint. But Sophia found another warehouse space in London Fields before settling in Monohaus on Mare Street.

“I’d never previously thought we’d end up in a modern space but I loved the industrial elements and it’s position near London Fields. I kept the polished concrete and left the ceilings exposed just adding the screens which can be moved around to suit. I also liked that there was a working community in situ full of creative industries. It seemed like an environment that was drawing inspirational people and I enjoy that vibe and interaction.”

I have to ask, Lockdown…how has it been? Sophia lets out a sigh, “I was incredibly worried to begin with and concerned for my staff but the furlough scheme and initial grant was a lifeline. I’m immensely grateful that I could keep people on which I wouldn’t have been able to if we were still freelancers. It was a very difficult decision to step away from the session work and take on the commitment of running a shop but I so happy I did now.”

Did you ever worry about your clients and how Lockdown might have changed their behaviour?

“Absolutely, I was worried, you just don’t know how society will react to something like this. What has happened is heartwarming, all our clients returned and we made new ones.” Rescuing bad self dyes?

“Some but generally clients haven’t been too bad.”  She smiles. “Sure, things have changed, the masks aren’t fun but on the plus side I’ve given up wearing makeup as no one can see my face anyway” she laughs.

What other changes have you seen? “There’s a real divide;  some people have gone more natural, embracing their textured hair whilst others have gone for the extreme, I guess desperate for a change. We do less blow drys now, as less people are going out but we sell more products. It seems people are just spending their money in a different way and spending more on looking after their hair.”

I noticed that she has been doing ‘Remote Working’ Sessions, what exactly are these?

“These have been great, you simply book to get your hair done and work at the same time. The majority of our clients were working from home but still wanted to get their hair done, this way they could justify having it done in the day and it saved them booking after work.”

So I can safely justify this appointment, I laugh.
How did it all begin for you?

“I wasn’t massively interested at school but loved science then one day, when I was 15, I got a Saturday job at a hairdressers and was hooked. I loved the mixing and discovering what colours worked with what skin tone or body shape, even your eye colour makes a difference.”

Given your story, Is there any advice you would give from someone looking to start a business?
“You will never be 100% ready, you will always have self doubt but you just gotta to get up and try.”

Kennaland is situated on 143 Mare Street, Hackney, E8 3RH
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The Costumier turned Proprietor

Back truffle lies on the south end of Broadway Market, close to the canal. In 2003 proprietor Melissa Needham unintentionally found herself running her own boutique.
Originally a freelance costumier for the likes of The Royal Opera House and the ENO, Melissa trained at The Wimbledon School of Art and then Cordwainers College on Mare Street, which later was bought by the London College of Fashion. It was here that she deviated from men's tailoring and learnt how to construct and repair shoes. 
In 1997 she formed Prescott and Mackay School of Fashion and Accessory Design offering specialised part time courses. Demand grew and by 2000 she was lecturing across the United States and Australia to Google and Apple execs during their lunch hour.

In 2003, she took up an additional lease believing it to be just a studio space on Broadway Market. On discovering this included a retail space she decided to embrace this new opportunity and created Black Truffle. Just like the elusive truffle, the name was conceived to conjure up the sense of exploration and discovery when hunting for that perfect item of clothing. Here she made and sold her own garments and shoes, for which she won The Best New Shoe Store Award in 2009, and was a finalist in the Drapers Footwear Awards 2010 for – Independent Footwear Retailer of the Year. Over the following years fashion buying trends changed as consumers turned to fast fashion, so the business adapted.
 
Today, Melissa specialises in seeking out affordable yet niche and up and coming designers to reflect her clientele's creativity. Drawing on her previous career as a costumier, she creates a narrative around her perceived buyer profile to select what will appeal to her market. Colours and how they are proportioned to the body are key.

London Fields and Hackney has historically been made up of visionaries, artists, seamstresses, furniture makers, designers and opportunists. In 2020, much has changed on the surface and many complain of East London being over gentrified but the underbelly of Hackney maintains its innovative roots. The locals, now actors and musicians, rubbing shoulders with architects and bankers, families and entrepreneurs, all drawn to the borough for the same reason, the sense of possibility.

Nothing is static in Hackney, it evolves and influences. For this reason, Broadway Market is a location that offers the perfect smorgasbord of creative delights be it food, cocktails, fashion or music.

Black Truffle is situated on 4 Broadway Market, London, E8 4QJ
 


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London Buy of the Week - Shoreditch loft is the perfect fit for a connoisseur of pop art and cocktails.

Press Coverage in the Evening Standard's, Homes and Property supplement, on a arty loft we are selling from our Shoreditch branch.
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Village Life in Hackney

Today's City A.M focuses on Stoke Newington and features comment from Fyfe Mcdade's Islington branch manager Laurie Penry-Jones. 
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Move to London: Art with Heart

Press coverage in this weeks Move to London, featuring comment from Fyfe Mcdade's Shoreditch branch manager Tom Page on the importance of using the arts to create community in London's many new developments. The Gransden is a forty-three apartment development with a modern art gallery filling it's 23,000 square foot commercial space, marketed from Fyfe Mcdade's Shoreditch branch.
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London buy of the week: Church conversion flat in Hackney Wick is the answer to a hipster's prayers

London's buy of the week is Fyfe Mcdade's one bedroom flat within The Verger's apartments, church conversion. Situated in Hackney Wick and only five minutes from Victoria Park it is marketed by our Shoreditch branch.  
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Money Week: Hoxton Square Converted Print House

Press coverage from Money Week on one of the last privately owned houses on the historic Hoxton Square. The former print house comes with an underground cinema room accessed through a secret door, a steam room, library, terraces and stunning city views. Marketed by Fyfe Mcdade's Shoreditch branch.

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Evening Standard Smart Moves: Hackney

Evening Standard press coverage on new development, Spurhouse, located moments from Hackney Downs station, marketed from Fyfe Mcdade's Shoreditch office.
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Daily Express: The moor the merrier

Press coverage in today's Daily Express discussing narrowboats as an affordable alternative to bricks and mortar, with comment from Fyfe Mcdade's Islington branch manager Laurie Penry-Jones.  
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City A.M. - Ditching Hackney for Bethnal Green

Press coverage  from City A.M focusing on newly popular Bethnal Green as buyers and renters alike are being priced out of Shoreditch, Hoxton and London Fields. Featuring comment from Fyfe Mcdade's Shoreditch Manager Tom Page. 
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Metro Property: Snooping Around Hackney Wick

Comment from Fyfe Mcdade's Shoreditch Manager, Tom Page, has been included in this weeks Metro Property Neighbourhood Watch, discussing Hackney Wick.  
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