The recent story of Palm 2 in Clapton is a David and Goliath yarn, with the feisty cornershop holding its own against the might of Tesco who opened a store nearby. Palm 2’s loyal customers have rallied behind owner Abdul Saluk, who has raised his game and improved his service to the point where this might well be the best corner shop in London. If you know a better one, please comment below.
Interview with Abdul Saluk
Abdul comes from a small village near Pamukkale in Turkey. He followed the village custom and trained as a shoemaker – this was the task for boys, and girls learnt to make carpets. But he broke with tradition by getting a job in a hotel, where he made friends with some English visitors and developed a yen to live in Britain.
His first move was to Germany, but then he met up with the English friends he made in Turkey and moved here. He worked at venerable Crockett & Jones in Northampton, the home of English shoemaking. Abdul learnt more about shoemaking than he thought possible, but he missed London, and got a job in the shoe trade here, and as a minicab driver. He cycled everywhere and got to know the city.
He acquired Palm 2 in 1994 and found his niche as a creative and sociable shop owner. The film noir-ish name came about because Abdul likes the sound of Palm Springs, and he had a second store while the main shop was being restored – somehow the name Palm 2 attached itself to the original shop.
Eventually four properties were merged to create the airy woodbeamed space that has transformed a corner of Clapton into a focal point for the community. There’s an excellent wine section – Abdul imports wine direct from Portugal – as well as a deli, piles of fruit and veg, fresh bread, cut flowers and all the cornershop classics in terms of tinned and packaged goods.
All this came under threat when Tesco Express opened four months ago, just a few steps from Palm 2. Abdul grins when he says that business has improved since Tesco opened – his customers have responded to the threat by choosing to shop with him. And Abdul has reacted with cheerful determination not to be beaten, providing the best service he can. Customers can add stock requests to a list by the till, and there’s free delivery of orders over £15. Plus you can sit at the pavement tables and drink Palm 2’s freshly brewed coffee.
While I was talking to Abdul two regular customers stopped by. A young bloke came to give him a present of a tub of goldfish for the tank in the shop, and a glamorous gardener asked if he would stock her homegrown herbs. It wouldn’t happen at the next-door Tesco, which looks so lifeless and forlorn in comparison that you could almost feel sorry for them … I did say almost.
Recipes were suggested by the friendly staff at Palm 2. Abdul remembers his mother cooking gözleme when he was a kid, so is delighted that she now produces it for the shop. Spanish Irene suggests gazpacho, refreshing Andalucian summer soup that is full of veg goodness.