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!