Life Tips: Michael Albert, Owner, Blustons


‘My children are doing other things so all I can do is try to sell it as a going concern – and at least no-one can change the frontage’



1. Continuity is crucial. My grandfather opened the shop, and I took over from my parents when they retired. I’ve been here for more than 50 years now, but my children are doing other things so all I can do is try to sell it as a going concern – and at least no-one can change the frontage. Next door was a big family-run department store called Daniels who all died out.

2. People will always want something that little bit different, something dressy. Especially after the war, when clothing had been under government restriction and everything was plain. Women hadn’t seen embroidered dresses for years. We had queues outside the shop.

3. Material should be made in Britain. We used to be the biggest exporters of clothing in the world. Now they’ve closed all the mills that made the cloth, we’re having to buy it from Italy and Eastern Europe. Even if they’re made here, the cloth comes from abroad.

4. Sell to your clientele. That’s how we’ve managed to survive over the years. We’re the only place round here where an older woman can buy classic styles. Youngsters used to be the biggest market, but it’s a different world now. The average age of our customers is going up and up – we have many now who are 100+ whose carers come in.

Blustons featured in Vogue, August 2011. Photo: Vogue
Blustons featured in Vogue, August 2011. Photo: Vogue

5. You can see people’s personalities in what they buy. Some are the head of the family; others are more quiet, so they choose long-sleeved, high-necked blouses. We’ve had transvestites in. They arrive as a man and try on a dress. They want something a bit more showy, because they’re going to make a statement on stage.

It’s very difficult to try and influence anybody. But customers can still surprise me. An older woman might buy something bright like the red polka-dot dress. I’ll let her reminisce about going dancing, about returning to her youth in the 1960s.

7. I couldn’t be very modern, I don’t know how. It wouldn’t suit me. Let’s leave that to somebody younger and in the swing of things.

Interview: Anna Bear
Photography by Tom Storr.

This is box title
March 16 2015 update: as Michael hinted in the above interview, he’s now retiring and so Blustons is sadly up for sale. We’ll update you as the story progresses. In the meantime, support the store at 213 Kentish Town Road NW5 – and join our campaign here.

Tags:

  • Show Comments

  • Claire

    God I love this place, it’s a Kentish Town institution!

  • Donna

    This was one of a couple of shops I loved – as a child! Playing chase around the outside of the shop with my younger brother, trying to see each other through the central display, while my nan shopped inside.The other one was the gent’s outfitters at the top of Anglers Lane – taking a shortcut through their pillar shop window display – this was in the 1950-60’s. Does anyone else remember a shop at the top end of Kentish Town where you could put some money in a slot at the side of the window, and then a train set came to life? I moved away in the 1960’s but still have family in the area – but they don’t remember it – did I imagine/dream it?

    • Paul E.

      Blustons – my Gran shopped there most of her life, as well as Daniels Department store, I think they had display floors next door to Blustons.

      Donna; The men’s outfitters ‘Burtons’ or was it ‘John Collier’ at end of Anglers Lane, I remember that little pillar shortcut, it became a poster/art/frame shop.

      If you played around that pillar, do you remember the large Co-op department store at the junction of Prince of Wales Road / Kentish Town Road it had a very deep window display, like a carriage drive with a huge central island display.

      There was a model railway shop up Fortess Road, near Phelps’ pianos. I used to spend my pocket money there regularly late 50’s/early 60’s but can’t remember a ‘coin in the slot’ display.

      .

  • joan smart

    Can anyone remember kimbers the butchers