Updated: Aug 16
I was picking from a jar of jalapenos earlier today and reminded that Akrams of Southsea, where I'd bought them, closed its doors after 20+ years on 31.12.18. It was a shock to those of us who have been going there for our spices and middle eastern foods, the news delivered to us by an emotional shopkeeper, but as much of what was sold there is now available in Waitrose, loyalty has been transferred elsewhere. I said this to a fellow shopper and she said "that's not the point". I agree. There is no doubt other reasons for its closure.
Take another Southsea institution - Victoriana at the top of Marmion Road - a shop selling a melange of antique and eclectic furniture to the people of Portsmouth, and beyond, for as long as I remember. While out walking in December we noticed it was empty and that it had a story to tell. Thankfully in this instance the store has an alternative option, despite its pain at having to move from a location it loved and prospered in for so long, not to mention the generations of families it served at that location and got to know there.
written by Diana Swann April21
Its heyday past, this proud precinct
was retail therapy for ladies who lunched.
Shoppers’ ghosts now haunt the sites
of the great failed stores. Only trust
in health food, leads to sales
of Holland and Barrett’s tofu and nuts.
The library mocks serious readers,
its books banished to shelves by the loo.
The dust in the harsh, spring sun
swirls round desultory dogs and owners.
A bored busker’s timid trumpet
floats unheard over backing music.
This is the realm of the Charity shop,
the last hope of treasure seekers,
who board, exhausted, the near-empty bus
that drops them home at their Retirement flat.
I was thinking about all of this when I ordered a dress from my phone (in bed) before Christmas and laughed at the madness of it, enjoying the ease of the shopping experience. I honestly can't think of anything I can't order online any more, so what will our shopping streets look like in the future?
I will miss Akrams because they had the best fruit, the best chillis, olive oil, olives, crunchy nuts, spices, etc etc - it seemed to me a labour of love for all that was best in middle eastern produce and just entering the shop took me in to their culture. Sadly, this off-line personalisation of product and experience from Palmerston Road in Southsea has now gone.