Popping Kings Road
'Our pop-up shop on Kings Road, Chelsea was where we spent the buildup to Christmas last year, with a shop primed to welcome our guests.'
A road once used solely by King Charles II on his way to Kew, now welcomes residence, wanna-be Sloane’s and tourists alike to revel in the bright lights, shiny mirrored surfaces and the multicultural ways of the Chelsea life. This time last year, we too were preparing to be part of the Chelsea shop-keeping gang with vibrancy and warmth which would make even the royal carriage on its way to Kew halt with curiosity. Our pop-up shop on Chelsea’s Kings Road was where we spent the buildup to Christmas last year, with a shop primed to welcome our guests in from the cold and into the welcoming, physical world of Tom Martin London. The shop was a beautiful, two-story Victorian arched premises, adjacent to numerous well-known restaurants. The shop towered tall more than it spread wide, but for an item so precious yet small, the space did not need to be large, instead it needed to impress. It needed to stop people in their tracks and it was required to make people feel welcomed. The Kings Road is a road that rests at the heart of Chelsea, a district oozing with historical infrastructure married with modern luxury. On this street at Christmas, shop windows discard faux foliage in favour the smell and vibrancy of freshly cut fur stems. Once our shop was confirmed in the Summer of 2016, I knew the two windows of the shop needed to be the first job on the list. As the Summer sun beamed down outside, it was a secret Christmas within.
Five months on and the night before advent had arrived: 30th November, 2016. A freshly felled Christmas tree and three logs, a desk, a wooden sleigh and boat and hundreds of purple tied gift boxes lay waiting in a van and car ready to convoy into Chelsea and dress the shop in preparation of our opening the following morning. As we sent the now unpacked van home, we stood in a shop surrounded by boxes with only the rumble of the heater to break the late night silence. A mixture of emotions flowed through us: from disbelief matched with excitement and concern. As we realised the timely saying 'time stops for no man' was evidently true, we got to work. As we hoisted a large 6 foot Christmas tree around the narrow curve of the spiral staircase, the clock struck midnight, the shop was brightly aglow with light and in just over 24 hours, my friends and family would be stepping through the door for a toast to the start of Advent and to the opening of our first retail experience. But my goodness, there was a long way to go.
The tree was put up and the dropped needles hoovered for the first of many times. A beautifully constructed wooden sleigh was placed next to the tree in the upstairs window and filled with purple ribbon-tied gift boxes, while the tree itself was adorned in lights and miniature Tom Martin London presents. The upstairs itself was used as an exhibition space of the past 6 and a half years. Many of my friends had not known the history of the brand, as it was a project I rarely spoke of during my education. Equally, I would be meeting my girlfriends parents and brother for the first time over this two week period. Needless to say, their favourite champagne was stocked in the fridge in readines to whisk them upstairs to this Christmas tree-scented space. I think they approved. On the ground floor, an equally well crafted wooden boat was placed in the window, to catch the ‘falling’ gift boxes and letters, each printed with the names of many of our customers, which came from the over-filled sleigh on the floor above. With the desk built, the stock arranged in the basement and the final touches made, the clock struck 4am and it was time to lock up and head home. The reality sunk in. In a few hours, I would be an official shop keeper.
Our two weeks in Chelsea was a huge learning curve and one filled with unforgettable, tired-fuelled fun. From the opening night, where numerous bottles of champagne welcomed our guests, to the preceding two weeks of greeting and getting to know new customers, many of whom latterly returned to say hello. It was a week of humble shopkeeping and one which, a year on, continues to fill me with great pride
Popping up on The Kings Road was not easy, but it was made a lot of fun by those new and old friends who help you pop it. But the question remains, did the carriage of King Charles II pass and pop in for a festive shop?
I like to think he would.