n need of gargantuan frozen fish? A crate of dates? Some okra? Maybe a rack of ribs? Well the cavernous Cash & Carry on Hampstead Road’s just the place.
The warehouse-cum-marketplace comprises a little green grocer, an in-house butchers and one of the most impressive spice selections in Euston. The store is heaving, people everywhere, clutching a stack of toilet rolls or bag of potatoes.
There’s a huddle round the halal butchers counter, a crowd of shoppers chatting amongst themselves – a Bengali-English linguistic hybrid – interspersed with the odd chop of a cleaver, prizing chicken breast from thigh.The phone rings frequently. “Salaam alaikum” (peace be unto you), answers owner Nurul Islam Choudhury, before darting off to the fridge to confirm that he’s got said variety of frozen crustacean in stock.
Locals stream in, the younger generation shuffle to the counter, hands in sleeves, presumably disturbed from their post-school chill, sent reluctantly to buy a sack of trout or a pack of dried prawns for the evening’s supper. “Bengali people eat lots of fish,” he jests, as a man lugs another outsize frozen specimen up to the counter.
The older generation, comparatively bounding with enthusiasm, natter with Nurul, asking how business is, whether he’s ready for Ramadan. “Meeting people is the best part of my job,” he says “this is my social life.” The Cash & Carry’s been open for just over a decade now, and the palpable rapport he and his six staff have with their customers shows how integral this place is.Nurul, who now lives in Croydon, studied Business Management and then ran three Indian restaurants across the capital before opening this store. He credits his degree for the slick operation in his warehouse-sized shop. “I always bring the theories I learnt during my bachelor’s into my business.”
It seems it’s paying off: business has steadily improved overtime, and Nurul is bringing in customers from more of a mixed crowd. “We used to get mainly ethnic minorities,” he says, “but we now have more of a cosmopolitan client base, which is great.”
The flow of customers doesn’t ebb, a crate of chickpeas sold here, a sack of spices there. Despite how much the rent on his expansive shop is, and the local insecurity since HS2 decided to lay its foundations in Euston, Nurul has kept a cool head: “keep prices reasonable and product quality high.”
“People get scared about change,” he says, referring to HS2, “but I think in the long run it will be a big improvement: we just need to hold tight for now and carry on business as usual.”
Now, who knows how to cook a gigantic tilapia?