I moved to Harlow sixteen years ago – before that I was living in Edmonton, north London. The area was changing; it wasn’t a good place to bring up a family. The breaking point came when my son was assaulted with a knife – enough was enough, I had to move. Among many positives, I saw Harlow as a much quieter and more friendly place to live, with better prospects for my children.
Getting out of London proved to be the right decision. My children soon found employment and I saw an opportunity to set up a business. When I first came to Harlow the Afro-Caribbean community was still small but certainly on the rise. And, unlike London, few of the staple food ingredients which form a major part of our cooking were available in shops around town. It’s scary when I think back now, but as business opportunities go I felt it was a good idea.
When my shop opened sixteen years ago, it was the first of its kind in Harlow. It was a slow start, but since then the shop has established itself as an important part of the community. So much so that it has become a kind of community centre, with me being the mother figure.
I think as a shopkeeper, dealing with people all day, I’m well placed to notice changes, good or bad, within a town. Although Harlow has changed, in my mind it’s not lost any of the positives that brought me here in the first place. Quite the opposite; I see Harlow changing for the better. The town’s cultural mix is getting broader, which can only be a good thing.