Best Independent Shop 2011: Owl Bookshop

1. Owl Bookshop 2. Earth 3. B&S DIY Shop With the UK somewhat of a world leader in bland identikit …

1. Owl Bookshop
2. Earth
3. B&S DIY Shop

With the UK somewhat of a world leader in bland identikit high streets, it’s refreshing to consider the range and calibre of independent shops on offer in the area. Votes came in for a truly diverse range of establishments, from the well-known to the gloriously obscure.

A strong performance came from Tufnell Park’s new grocers Fam Market, while KT veterans Ace Sports, Phoenicia and Morgan’s Stationary have many loyal fans. The Fruit Bowl outside Kentish Town tube is another of those places dear to the hearts of the voters for its convenience, range and jolly staff.

Ellen recommended Harrington & Squires “aka the quirky print shop on Fortess Road which sells lovely postcode postcards” as her particular unpredictable fave.

But it was the shear range of useful things on offer, all served with a smile, that swung it for third place winner B&S DIY.

Fiona summed up the local sentiment; “The Shop That Sells Everything, aka B&S DIY, aka Sam’s. They actually do sell everything, except maybe food, but if you wanted some they’d probably offer you their lunch, they are that nice. The heart of Kentish Town.”

Michael the hairdresser at Flaxon Ptootch was among the fans of our #2 winner, Earth, for providing such a broad range of whole foods and “for the lovely Steven at the cheese counter.” The shop is always bustling with people and in a few short years it’s become difficult to imagine what life was like without it.

But it was a true High Street institution that pooled the most votes, the beloved Owl Bookshop, a clear cut number 1 and a place of which locals are obviously immensely proud after 37 years.

Although not strictly a 100% independent entity these days, the careful hands of Daunt Books have preserved and improved the feel of assorted local shopping streets with exactly the sort of personal touch mourned elsewhere when the chains move in. Therefore their stewardship of the Owl has ensured Kentish Town keeps an all too rare, invaluable resource – and one that is thankfully not taken for granted by the enthusiastic locals.

Worthy winners? Glaring omissions? Tell us what you think…

Tomorrow: Best Happening
Words & Pics: Tom Kihl


  • Show Comments

  • fiona

    Yaaaaahhhh! (best Kermit impression)…TSTSE came third!! and the Owl in it’s deserved place (wish they’d get their magazine section back though). What an excellent countdown this is, thankyou.

    • Kentishtowner

      Glad you’re enjoying it – plenty more to come this week as things really hot up in the key categories. The love for B&S has been great to see – it’s like everyone’s secret local fave, not the latest fashionable bar/salon/deli but a place they couldn’t imagine life without.

  • Jen

    Congratulations on the top honour Owl Bookshop, and well deserved. I spend many lunch hours wandering around in here and am constantly surprised by the diversity of the titles and wonderful service.

    • Kentishtowner

      A ‘real’ bookshop if ever there was one. Love the local history section too.

  • Agaton Sax

    Surely room there for Phoenicia?

    • Kentishtowner

      It’s a personal fave for sure, (and regularly appears when we run reader’s Top 5 lists) but the voters didn’t see it that way on this occasion – competition in this category was fierce!

  • Miriam Halahmy

    Congratulations to OWL bookshop. Very well deserved. Had a fantastic launch of my novel HIDDEN there last March. See you soon.

  • p h c

    Fruit Bowl staff jolly??!! You must be joking they’re the rudest, most miserable people in the area! The guys outside Co-op are so much nicer and better value too!

  • Fiona

    p h c Hilarious..yes, I agree. they are pretty damned grumpy and I also can’t understand why anyone would get stuff there rather than by the Co-op..lovely people, amazingly cheap, excellent quality and they give great advice about stuff too (actually in all fairness I think the other lot do too).

  • Fiona

    Oh and I just thought of a Top Tip for KT dog owners, plus a mention of an excellent independent shop.
    Everbest, the grocer opposite the tube station, next to Sainsburys, not only has a fantastic pckle/spice selection and very nice fruit and veg (if a bit pricey), they allow dogs into the shop. Not only that, they chat to them and ask questions about their general well-being. Top people.

  • Pascal

    Gutted to see that Harry’s butchers is up for sale. No pun intended. What a lovely guy.

  • Hywel

    So glad to see the Owl Bookshop is still going, and still well-loved. I first went there as a child in 1981, and I’ve been back whenever I can since I left London. A real piece of proper London.