Depending on who you speak to, Kentish Town Road right now is either:
A) Looking really shabby with all those boarded-up shops, identikit chains and down-at-heel discount stores.
B) Way too full of posh coffee outlets, pricey craft beer and baskets of organic focaccia, thank you very much.
You can pick either version of reality. Or even both. Meanwhile, one universally lamented long-term trend on the Great British High Street, is the loss of pubs.
Kentish Town Road’s Green Dragon was first licensed back in 1751. It became known as the King’s Arms in 1785, but most modern-day readers would know it only as the rather dull offices of solicitors Walter Jennings & Son, despite the historic inn having served up the pints here until 1969.
Unusually though, for the the architectural mishmash that is Kentish Town Road, the rather lovely old pub building survives, and was recently spruced up.
Now signage is displayed on the big new front windows too, announcing the arrival of Naturally, a soon-to-be chain of London health food shops, who’ve just revealed plans to open their first outlet on Holloway Road, followed swiftly by this one, in early 2018.
They tell us their stores will stock products from small producers across the UK and Europe, with an emphasis on clear labeling, transparent supply chains and decent prices. They are also keen to ingratiate themselves with the community via masterclasses, tastings and the like.
One high street sector that is in rude, er, health, is heath food. Local stalwarts Earth Natural Foods and Phoenicia have recently been joined by Natural Food Store and a branch of the ubiquitous Holland & Barrett within the same short stretch, but clearly the team behind Naturally feel there’s room for more growth.
Where once beer and brawling could be found on virtually every Kentish Town Road corner, today you’re more likely to encounter a dizzying selection of fruit teas and piles of speciality olives.
How you view the changing face of the high street is, as ever, up to you. But the coming of Naturally certainly looks like a better use for this lovely building than its decades as a strip-lit solicitor’s behind awful smokey glass.
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