80 Harlesden Road London NW10.
The shop started life on 15th June 1905 when George James Furness of Roundwood House signed a 99 year lease over to George Conquest Freeman and Arthur Samuel Barber both of Ashford Works, Cricklewood. They were builders. They signed together with, a George Alexander Bradshaw of 307 Chapter Road, Baker and Confectioner. The old Buff's Book, the equivalent to the current yellow pages, tell us that Mr Bradshaw only ran his baker shop for three years and then handed it over to a Mr Frederick Bournhill in 1909. Mr Bournhill was also a baker.
Two years later the shop changed hands again, this time to a Mr Alfred Wills who then ran it as a grocer shop until 1939. During those years Mr Wills must witnessed the growth of Willesden and Harlesden and would have had a growing customer base for his business. After Mr Wills sold the shop in 1939 it changed hands a few times more until the Wheelers took over in 1947. The shop has continued to remain in their family.
These are memories from Brenda Wheeler.
'With regard to the history of the shop, prior to my parents taking over it was also a grocery shop but when my parents started their business in 1947, just after the war, they called it 'Wheeler's'. (They had both been in the grocery trade from leaving school at 14 and that is how they met. My father was the manager of a shop in Seven Sisters Road, and my mother worked on the cheese counter!)
In the early years, there used to be a big display of fruit and veg on the forecourt. Also, I can remember huge cheddar cheeses arriving which had to be cut up and also sides of bacon which also had to be cut into rashers and other joints - gammon - hocks, etc. My father would cook the gammons and he was renowned for his wonderful ham!
My brother reminded me that the cheeses I spoke about were 40lbs in weight! After a while they were delivered in 4 x 10lb blocks. Also, butter was delivered in blocks which had to be weighed up individually. Ration coupons were still around until the early 50's.
All the sugar, tea, and other dry commodities would come in sacks and have to be individually bagged into the appropriate size paper bags. The customers used to come in with their shopping lists and sit at the counter whilst 'being served'. My parents would get all the items for the customer and pack them into their bags which they would bring along (that has gone full cycle now!).
My father would also deliver the customer's orders and at one time there were three delivery boys who would come in after school and at weekends. My brother being one and he is still very friendly with another delivery boy. When my brother left school aged 15/16 he also went into the business, and it was shortly after he started that they opened the other shop at No 2 Harlesden Road which has recently been converted into residential. My brother continued with his shop until approx 1992.
I also had to help out in the shop as both my Mum and Dad worked full time! I used to like stacking the shelves but was a little more reluctant when customers asked for 5lbs potatoes which were in sacks and hadn't been washed and still had the mud on them!
The shop was updated in 1957 and then again into a 'self-service' shop in approx 1967. Obviously, my parents knew most of the locals and were well respected in the area. They loved being in the shop.
There's a story about the shop cat, Jimmy, a tortoiseshell. (This was obviously before Health & Safety!) Jimmy was a 'mouser' and one day he ran across Harlesden Road straight into a hub cap of a car which was travelling along the road and was knocked out. My father and brother were very upset and carried him into the shop and put him in the basement with some milk and brandy ... Jimmy made a remarkable recovery! And we gained a customer, as the driver always stopped to come into the shop and ask after Jimmy!
My parents retired around 1983. My father died in 1987, aged 80, and my mother is now 94. After, they retired the shop continued as a grocery shop. At one time it was offices and then Mr Holley took it over in 1997, first as offices/storeroom for his building business and then he opened the Organic Shop in 2000.'
In 2009 the shop became vacant once again. Having lived in the area for sometime the shop was well known to Naomi Harrison. The lease on her Portobello studio was not being renewed and Naomi saw an opportunity to combine two ambitions: to have a studio within walking distance of home and a gallery for local artists and those whose work offers something different.
Situated on the corner of Harlesden and Parkfield roads, the former organic shop has been transformed into artisan, a combination of gallery and working studio.
The shops transformation has caused much speculation in the neighbourhood. Having stood on this corner since 1905 it is very much part of local history and everyone knows its quirky appearance. From always been a corner grocery shop it now begins a new era as a gallery.
Opening times during exhibitions:
Wednesday to Saturday 11pm to 5pm