Tell a Community by its Shops

A couple of days ago I spent part of the morning strolling around the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh.  It’s not a part of the city with which I’m that familiar, so I spent the time thinking about what sort of place it might be.  The question came to mind primarily because the collection of shops in the high street was so remarkable.

I had my choice of both chain and independent coffee shops, many adorned with hand written chalk boards promising delicacies from far flung places on a regular basis; kitchen design shops leading me to believe that every work surface is at least granite, and that I’d not find anything but a hand crafted door on any kitchen cupboard nearby; and the smartest most elegant looking charity shops I’ve ever seen.

I’m not quite sure where I might have bought a newspaper or an ordinary non-organic, non hand ground loaf of bread, although I’m sure there must have been a mini supermarket or newsagent hiding behind one of the shop fronts in co-ordinated Farrow and Ball ‘heritage’ colours.

This is clearly a prosperous area of the city, as far removed from the tourist tartan tat of The Royal Mile as it is from the hard-nosed hard drinking environs of a ‘Rebus’ novel, where notwithstanding how many remodelled hi-tech kitchens with integrated appliances have been installed, there remains an insatiable appetite for a coffee in a shop.

Or perhaps it is the perpetual upgrading and remodelling behind the elegant facades which explains the make up of the street.  The home is cleared out, and all the old bits and pieces are dropped off at the charity shop, before the builders move in to revamp the house, and while they’re working, drinking tea and whistling along to the radio, the lady of the house is out, avoiding the noise and mess, chatting over a coffee and a piece of shortbread……

Hmm….. But that doesn’t account for who is buying the stuff in the charity shops…..

What do you think?

Leave a comment


  1. At the height of my Charity Shop shopping career I would regularly travel to twenty shops, in four towns, over two Counties every week…the only way to find the best items!

  2. emissima

     /  December 27, 2011

    I went to Stockbridge primary back in the day and it certainly wasn’t full of rich kids. And when I got to secondary school, Broughton High and the private Fettes Academy across the road (where most pupils are boarders) actually organised exchanges – illuminating for both parties. There’s still a stock of social housing by the Water of Leith and behind Fettes it gets progessively rougher until you end up in West Granton. Certainly though, iStockbridge is gentrifying. It’s been a whie since I explored, but I’d say you’d be hard pressed to find a pub which doesn’t serve lattes now……

    • I didn’t realise it had changed so much as gentrification looks very well established and lattes are definitely very widely available!


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