For Londoners living outside of Zone 1, the true landmarks of life in the capital are miles away from the tourist hotspots and Instagrammable backdrops.
Places such as your local corner shop which sells discounted Fanta Orange in vintage glass bottles, or the welcoming pub you’ve been visiting for years where they even know your name.
For those living in the Greenwich, South East London, the 36 year-old Mirror Shop on Woolwich Road is a longstanding institution loved by all, even those who’ve never actually ventured inside.
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Owner Clive Richard Berry, 64, who was born on the Cherry Orchard estate in Charlton started a second-hand mirror business on Blackwall Lane before renting his current shop on Woolwich road.
Clive has help at the shop from his grandson Louie, 14, who lends a hand after school to “stay out of trouble”.
The son of a civil service worker for Winston Churchill and a ship propeller maker, the Londoner learned to read and write aged 18 when he started working.
Clive said: “I left school at 14. I couldn’t read or write. When I started a business on my own at 18, I had to fill in forms and that.
“I was doing the road, tarmacs,” he recalled.
The entrepreneur started off by selling second-hand furniture.
“We sold the odd mirror and second-hand furniture, and they [the mirrors] seemed to sell better than the furniture,” he said.
“Then this shop came up [on Woolwich Road], an old colleague of mine said ‘Would I like to rent it’. I said yes, and that’s how it started – I did a few mirrors and it became quite a success.“
For 36 years, on the approach to the Angerstein roundabout where cars join the A206 drivers and pedestrians passing by were treated to the curious ornaments and statues on display outside, such as E.T. and Betty Boop.
However, the showcase of goods on the roadside caused controversy with the council and led to Clive receiving a fine of £872 for placing some of the models along the road railings and on the central reservation in 2020.
The council’s actions led to locals then expressing their support for the beloved Mirror Shop and its quirky models on Twitter, with some saying that it brought “joy to an otherwise nondescript road.“
Clive was forced to remove the models from those areas but still rents out the statues for photographers and filmmakers.
The 64 year-old said: “We hire them out sometimes. Film sets, come Christmas, sheep and all that for school and religious events.
Despite the heavy competition from IKEA and other major furniture retailers nearby, the local entrepreneur has managed to stay afloat.
The South East Londoner credits his savvy trading to his close connections with suppliers who could get him deals on mirrors, such as one man he calls Italian Tony – who sadly recently passed away.
The Londoner said: “Tony’s family owned every building on Hackney Road, and they owned a mirror shop.
“He was 86, he had Armani clothes. He was great.”
Shoppers who visit the Mirror Shop also come in to repair broken mirrors, but Clive gives his patrons one solid piece of advice on whether to purchase or fix their pieces.
The 64-year-old said: “If it hasn’t got sentimental value, don’t fix it.”
The father-of-four hopes to pass on the shop’s legacy to his family as he approaches retirement.
He said: “One of my daughters, Cara, started working here, and my son Max. I expect one of my 12 grandchildren will work here.
“They will take over, I expect.”
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