If I owned a shop it would be the greatest shop in the world. It would sell indie CDs and books. Oh, and Doctor Who DVDs and Marvel Blu-Rays. Vegan food too. And Converse shoes and psoriasis cream and beer and ventolin and paintings of my dog and it would be called Legge's and no one except me would ever be allowed in.
It's not a great business model, especially in the current financial crisis (I have no money), but what Legge's would do is actually think of it's customers as individuals. Not everyone is an averagely healthy, Apprentice watching meat eater. Some of us are wheezing, flaking, TARDIS obsessed plant eaters with little regard for the welfare of their feet and a near romantic attachment to their pets. And Legge's would appeal to those exact people. Those exact people who are called Michael Legge and are me. It would be a small, local business (I see little point in opening this shop far away from me) that would care for individuals. Well, individual. But it would also spare a thought for the rest of the general public too by not letting them in and having a sign outside that reads "There Is Nothing Of Interest For You In Here".
Yes, it would fail but surely even that is the spirit of Legge's? My empire built in my own image. But at least Legge's wouldn't be the icy cold, money grabbing, uncaring corporation that we're used to. A faceless business that has no clue who we are. Today, Amazon sent me an email recommending I buy Ed Sheeran's album. If a friend did that to me, I would never have anything to do with them again until their funeral where I would read their bastard email out aloud and everyone would then take turns to boot-fuck the corpse around the cemetery and then I'd seduce their widow/widower (Legge's is an equal opportunity establishment).
In this day and age of terrible online offers from corporations who think we're all the same and supermarket self-service tills that ask "Would you like some half-price Trill?", it is good to know that some of the smaller, independent businesses do understand and respect the little guy. I have a couple of friends who like to eat Sugar Puffs at 7pm. I don't like these friends but I'm happy that a place has finally opened up in London just for them. Two bearded, tattooed caricatures of everyone in Shoreditch own a cereal cafe and I found it very upsetting to see so many people online hoping for the cafe's failure just because it sold cereal. I wanted it to fail because the owners are clearly wankers. I'd have had less of a problem with the place if it was owned by The Wests. But then I'm not fussed on cereal or wankers, so that shop's not for me and that's fine. I like a place that can get what I want and is willing to go the extra mile just for me.
Two days ago, I fancied a Diet Coke. That's one of the things I like. I looked around Lewisham and saw that Legge's still hadn't opened so I sadly walked around to find somewhere that would have what I like, that would get what I want... Somewhere that knows me. And I found it.
A pop-up shop in Lewisham Shopping Centre. Perfect. I walked over and asked the enterprising young go-getter behind the counter for a Diet Coke. "No problem", he said. I liked that. I'd never been to this shop before but already they were on my side. They knew me. They knew I liked Diet Coke and I hated problems. Nice touch. I'm impressed. "Can or bottle?", he inquired.
A choice! This is a great shop. They know me well enough to know that sometimes I like Diet Coke from a can and sometimes I like it from a bottle. I don't feel like a statistic here. Like a nobody. I feel cared about because I'm thought of. It was lovely. "A bottle", I replied.
"Hmmm...", he said.
Uh-oh. Have we hit a problem? But... We were so close. He said no problem. He knew I wanted a Diet Coke. He knew I liked to choose what receptacle my Diet Coke comes in. This man KNOWS ME. I finally felt that a business had reached out to me and then I'm punched in the face with a "Hmmm"? What? Is there no Diet Coke? Is there only Diet Pepsi (ugh)? Is he going to recommend Ed Sheeran's album? "Hold on", he said.
Confidence back. He said "No problem" and he meant it. This was a business man who knew what made me happy and he cared enough to MAKE me happy. I asked for a Diet Coke, he said "No problem", he asked if I wanted a can or a bottle and when I said bottle he... He left the shop, went to another shop, bought a Diet Coke and then brought it back for me.
He left me standing in his shop for over a minute. I stood there, in HIS shop by MYSELF, for over a MINUTE. I even saw him in the other shop. He got his money out, he bought a Diet Coke and then he sold it to me. He could have said "We only have cans" like any normal, not insane person would have but instead he turned the whole buying-a-Diet-Coke thing into a pointless exercise in giving the people what they want. Why? Because he cared. He cared about the little man. He cared about me.
Anyway, I'm not going back.