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Boarded up Blustons to become charity clothes shop

Exclusive: Landmark Kentish Town unit will retain its iconic facade

26 April, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

THE landmark clothing shop Blustons is set to re-open as a charity store selling designer second-hand outfits, the New Journal can reveal.

The Octavia Foundation has sized up the unit in Kentish Town Road for a new store. It will keep the iconic Blustons shopfront but wants to add its own sign above the doorway, according to planning documents filed at the Town Hall. The charity helps people in north and west London access education and training, fights social exclusion and offers support to older people.

Jane and Samuel Bluston set up the shop in the 1930s, buying job-lots of women’s dresses direct from tailors based in Commercial Road. When their grandchildren retired from running the store in 2014, the shop, with its listed signs and classic window display cases, lay empty for two years.

Squatters moved in for a short time before clothing retailer Zeynal Cakallik stepped in and set it up again as a traditional clothing store. The tills were not ringing and Mr Cakallik closed just a year later. Its future has since been the subject of much speculation.

Fashion giant Ted Baker used the plate-glass windows for a temporary fashion exhibition, while there were moves to offer the unit to students from Central St Martins arts university to sell one-off pieces on stalls inside. But with Kentish Town Road suffering from a string of empty shops, no one was willing to step in and take on a historic shop protected by listed status – until now.

The Octavia Foundation’s head of retail, Colm Ennis, told the New Journal they hope to win planning permission to add a sign declaring the charity’s takeover of the site. If successful, they will start trading this summer.

Mr Ennis added: “The Octavia Foundation is exploring the options to run a charity shop in the old Blustons unit to support our community work, which helps over 2,000 a people a year in London. We are only interested in doing this if the original iconic Blustons sign and shop features can be retained. We have submitted a planning application on this basis and are hopeful that we will be able to take this forward.”

The possible reopening of the famous store has been welcomed by pressure group Kentish Town Road Action, who keep a watchful eye on empty properties and encourage people to use their local independent stores.

Chairwoman Caroline Hill said: “We are not overly keen on another charity shop, but the Octavia Foundation is a very good charity. “We do think it will be a useful and well-used store and, on the whole, having someone in there is better than it staying empty.”

Ms Hill added: “The trouble with charity shops is, because they have reduced overheads – they do not need to pay for staff or for stock – the landlords often ask for higher rents, which has a knock-on effect for other businesses who have higher overheads.”

No date has been set for the Town Hall to decide whether to give the plans the go-ahead.

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