Everyone has a story. Archway is due a complete makeover by 2016 – but already Junction Road, N19 is a surprisingly good place to go for gifts, food, pet supplies and pubs. Here’s how Ian Morris, co-owner of the wonderful Map gift shop has helped improve his bit of Islington. Interview by Nicola Baird
Ian Morris with a 1904 photo of his shop. Back then it was a butcher’s shop. Even now the pink-fronted Map Gift Shop on Junction Road has butchers’ hooks.
“We always put up our Christmas display on the first Sunday after Halloween. Over the years I’ve seen parents with children come in November to buy special Christmas decorations for their tree. It’s a tradition for them,” says the very friendly Ian Morris who runs Map Gift Store on Junction Road in Upper Holloway (what the rest of us call Archway).
The striking pink store along this swiftly gentrifying shopping street was once a butcher’s shop – one of five. Now it’s a Christmas gift buyers’ paradise stocked with baubles, cards, jewelry, novelties, books and scented candles. Whatever the season, Map also offers gift wrapping – this may feel like cheating, but it certainly makes your present look exceedingly stylish.
Ian, 56 this month, is a brilliant champion of Archway. For some years he’s been part of the Town Centre group – run by traders with help from Islington Council’s Anna Woodward and Sarah Hitchcock. “Over the past few years the group has focused on improving the appearance and conception people have of Archway. The group has run many schemes such as visual merchandising, business development and allocating grants to improve the look and feel of Archway to enable locally-owned shops to compete with bigger business,” says Ian.
As Archway is due a complete makeover by 2016 – with three major building redevelopments and a re-routing of the busy A1, helping the shops to cope with these changes can only be a good thing.
In 2013 Map Gift shop got its own makeover – renovating it with a curved glass window just as it was in 1904.
Ian Morris: co-owner of Map Gift Shop: “Christmas is our busiest time but then it’s Valentines, Mother’s Day and Easter. Summer is probably our least busy time – however tourist trade can be good.” (c) Map Gift Shop
“When the Northern line was built every property was photographed in case there was subsidence,” explains Ian showing me the old photo with a butchers’ block outside where the meat was cut up and hooks for carcasses hanging all round the outside. “Back then the station was called Highgate. We wanted to change the shop frontage to how it was over 100 years ago.”
Fortunately subsidence hasn’t been a problem, even though you can hear the trains from Map’s basement. But over the 20th century Archway suffered from other problems: its department store and an Odeon cinema shut, as did the butchers shops. Fortunately it seems the doldrums are over: Archway is not just looking better, it is bustling again with daytime shoppers and night time revellers. “Many Archway stores are taking part in the Islington-backed regeneration scheme, smartening up and regaining a sense of their local importance,” explains Ian.
Even Ian – with his business partner Kathryn Phalp– have had several reincarnations. They began in 1990 selling decorated ceramics, moving in 1993 to Junction Road (at 165 which is now a flower shop). “We were selling to many stores such as Saks 5th Avenue, Heals and Liberty and shops as far away as Singapore and Hong Kong, but we decided to switch from wholesale to retail business,” explains Ian.
“We wanted to sell a mix of locally made items and I really enjoy meeting clients.People in Archway are a fascinating mix and many customers have become close friends. There are a lot of artists and designers in the area. Even now we sell their jewellery, cards and some stationery. The Lazy Leopard books are made by Nina Dogmetchi who used to work with us, then went to the Royal College of Art and is now forging a career as a successful illustrator.”
Eventually the business partners moved to their current home, 93 Junction Road, and sold the kilns to make more room for stock.
Jacqui Staniforth opened Deli Junction, which stocks unique locally produced items from Tottenham cheese to Islington-smoked salamis, in November. Her son, Eden, is in charge of the coffee.
Five places Ian Morris likes around Archway
Ian, is a proper champion of Archway. He has lived in the area since 1991, but his home is currently in Islington, just off Stroud Green Road.
All day I’m looking at two pubs – though I don’t drink. St Johns’ Tavern, 91 Junction Road, N19 is a great gastro pub with a big dining room. If you look at the 1st floor you can see where the brickwork changes. That’s a repair after a bomb went off in World War Two. TheOak and Pastor is good too and it has an upstairs party room. 86 Junction Road, N19.
There’s a new deli three doors down, Junction Deli, which has got Tottenham cheese.
I do a lot of local shopping in Yildiz (the baker and café) and the co-op.
I go to the Gate Café run by Fiona on Archway Island. She makes cakes and pastries beautifully. And there’s a small garden. I sometimes go there for lunch when it is quiet. @TheGateArchway
You’ll often see me jogging in the borough.
Ian’s background is textiles – he’s spent time lecturing at Loughborough, Harrow and Bristol. “I do miss the creative side,” explains Ian who is often in the shop but also regularly goes to drawing and painting classes. He’s also surrounded by beautiful designs that he and Kathryn have hand picked as potential gifts. In the store at the moment there are some ceramics that make you want to sink into a cosy sofa and sip hot chocolate… Such a feeling isn’t unusual it seems, as recently MAP’s customers voted it as the best shop in the area in the 2014Time Out local shop awards.
Ian Morris from Map Gift Shop: “When we redecorated we thought of a classic colour, greys and greens, but we’re known as the pink shop, and our customers wanted us to stay pink. This colour is actually Russian velvet.”
But running a shop, which employs five staff, needs a strong business understanding and local savvy, not just idiosyncratic or beautiful taste. That’s why you’ll find state of the art tills, cycle parking outside and money spent on disability accessibility. “We have a customer, Diane, who became ill and couldn’t come up the step. I would have to stand in the door and show her cards in the wind and rain. It was awful for her,” explains Ian, “it’s what made me want to champion Archway as a disabled friendly place.”
If you’ve never been to Map, then making a visit for Christmas shopping might be the perfect time. Indeed making a trip to Junction Road to shop and then pop into some of the restaurants and pubs just a few metres from Archway tube is going to be quite a surprise for anyone who doesn’t yet realise just what’s going on in Archway, Upper Holloway or as the estate agents allegedly call it, ‘Highgate Slopes’. Whatever name you pick, the area is changing fast. Go see.