Goodbye Cruson

Photo by Tom Leighton. Buy a print.

Well, it’s been a minute since I last wrote anything here, but I feel like I can’t let the end of a little piece of Camberwell history pass without recording it.

In case you haven’t heard, Aris and Maria of Cruson are retiring and the shop has been sold. They took over the shop in 1971—or at least, Aris think so, but nobody’s really sure. And they’ve been a pretty much permanent fixture on Church Street ever since.

When they came to Camberwell the area had a lot of Cypriot immigrants who’d moved over here in the 1960s—so many that the area was informally known as ‘Little Cyprus’. Even today there’s Sophocles bakery, Vineyard Greek Taverna, St Mary’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral; when I first moved here back in the mid-90s there was also another Greek Taverna on the corner of Camberwell Grove, and Tadim cafe on Church Street, and Paul’s Continental Olive Shop. And there was Cruson.

Everybody knows Cruson. The shop with its green awning, and its racks of fruit, vegetables, flowers, and plants on the street, and its interior a time-capsule of a high street long since gone. It’s a local landmark, appearing in much art and photography.

And everybody knows Aris and Maria—Aris especially, as he was the face of Cruson. In all the time I’ve lived here, every morning before 8am Aris opened up the shop, and every evening at 9pm he closed it again. You can read some of his life story in this piece from the Peckham Peculiar last year.

When I came to London I was trained as a hairdresser and I got a job working in a hairdressing salon on Old Compton Street in Soho. But times were difficult because everyone wanted to have long hair so you didn’t get the regular customers coming in like before. Just as I learnt how to be a barber I also learnt how to be a greengrocer.

He was also featured in a BBC article about the changing face of the high street—and, as always, just referred to as Aris.

It’s Aris, just Aris. No one knows my other name. If you say it, you write it down, everyone will say, ‘who is that man, I never heard of him’.

Tom Leighton, who took the iconic photo at the top of this post, has made a lovely short film about a day in the life of Cruson. Here’s a preview:

I wish Aris and Maria a very happy retirement. I’ll miss dropping in there to hear him say, in the Cypriot accent he never lost in almost 60 years, “hello, young man!”.

At 78, I think I should try out retirement. I am not sure how I will find it, but it’s now or never!

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

10 thoughts on “Goodbye Cruson”

  1. Surprised at how emotional my response is to this. Glad to hear that they’re finally retiring, sad that Camberwell will lose this iconic cultural landmark.

  2. What a lovely film — can’t believe we won’t see Aris again behind his counter or arranging his stock outside.

  3. surprised by the closer of Curson. Aris parks his van opposite our flats .Alway joking such a friendly couple.They will surely be missed.Wishing them both happy retirement

  4. I love you all at Cruzon. I have recipe’s, memories and deep affection for you. Enjoy a long and happy retirement xxxxx

  5. End of an era .. I’ve lived in Camberwell for pretty much 20 years and Cruson has been a constant. So sad to see it all shut up, but happy retirement to them all.

  6. I’m gutted that he’s retired but totally get why.

    Thanks for posting my photo and the video Peter.

    I met the new owner at Aris’ retirement party on Wednesday. He’s a lovely guy. I also bumped into him as he and his family were opening the shutters for the first time. The kids were very excited to be playing shop!

    The shop does need a lot of work so it will be closed for a while but he is hoping to continue selling fruit and veg, as well as other items. How much the shop will change is unclear. I would really love him to at least keep the heritage of the shop, especially the shop sign at the front. He was surprised when several people said the same to him.

    I am tempted to leave a welcome note on the shutters, but also a plea to preserve what is best about the shop…

  7. Love Camberwell, Love Mr Cruson. Thanks for recording them so beautifully Tom and bringing the blog back to life for this Peter. I feel I have to add my 2pence for posterity. I will miss the shop, array and wondering cats — I remember it was the only place open for miles in 2011 during the riots — but chilled out as ever. I also loved the way Aris picked out Avocado’s. I wish you a happy retirement. x

  8. WONDERFUL SHOP. Immense sense of loss. Still, the Hermits next door is unchanged, Stormbird across the road is now almost vintage and Moura’s new pub in Bromey, the Star & Garter, won Camra’s SE London Pub of the Year.

  9. PESH FLOWERS have closed down their Denmark Hill shop and moved to what they call studio premises somewhere. This is like Cruson closing, both are Camberwell legends, but good luck to Pesh in their new online life. They were/are one of the best florists in the country.

Leave a Reply