Choosing Keeping began in 2012 as a small shop on Columbia Road, the street in East London best known for its flower market and independent boutiques. Stationery was making a fashionable comeback, a response to the all-encompassing digital age, but for us it was always there: the first fountain pen you used in school, the notebook that kept you company through your teenage years, the rotary pencil sharpener on your teacher’s desk, your grandfather’s filing cabinet. Nostalgic collecting notwithstanding, we also believe objects, pens, glue and the stationery accoutrement, should be appraised for its historical and cultural significance, as well as design and functionality.
Choosing Keeping is a shop of R&D - sourcing is at the core of what we do and excessive amounts of time and perseverance are invested to see unusual items, newly developed or plucked from old times, made into reality for our customers enjoyment. In-person on-site visits to factories are often the catalyst and impulse for special productions and ideas, for a tangible story behind all that we sell - forget catalogues and gift fairs! Our criteria for manufacturing is strict, favouring goods from small, mostly family-owned businesses looking to achieve the golden triangle of historicity, quality and aesthetics. The result means that through responsible sourcing, our customers also achieve a high contribution towards ‘retail-biodiversity’ and ‘ethical spending’. Indeed as is true with many smaller independent shops, consumerism the Choosing Keeping way, benefits a vast network of deserving and passionate manufacturers, rather than one nameless conglomerate.
November 2018 saw a big change for the business, leaving the East-end after 5 happy years on Columbia Road, relocating to the centre of London, 21 Tower St, nearby Covent Garden. We asked ceramic polymaths Steve Harrison to assist with the new shop fit-out and his salt glazed pots and furniture were commissioned as a backdrop for the theatre of stationery. Many items, which sat in tight quarters in our previous tiny shop, now can take centre stage, Japanese silk-screened decorative papers taking over a 4 meter wall display and art supplies encased in a four bay V&A bronze museum cabinet.
Four times a year, the new shop space gives itself over to punctual exhibitions for a closer introspection into a facet of the stationery field especially what is handmade and artisanal. Other extra-curriculars include our Christmas window launch in November. Indeed Choosing Keeping, usually more of a stationery purist, throws out the rulebook for the season, embracing glitter and religious kitsch for the benefit of a buffet of handblown decorations. We would gladly sell these all year if decency allowed it.
Choosing Keeping is nothing without people. Like a good bar - you have your regulars, and they have their usual orders. Though, of course, we have an online presence, Choosing Keeping is first and foremost an exercise in real-life shopkeeping and we treasure the analogue charm of a brick-and-mortar shop. We relish the opportunity to serve you in person over spades of pencil-talk, getting to know you personally and the particularities of your stationery tastes. We are a small team of people, with diverse interests and experiences, but with a common appreciation for the somewhat overlooked and at times undervalued occupation of shopkeeping.
Why the name?
Many are often curious about the name of our shop - why “Choosing Keeping”? It’s simple, really: we wish for our customers to be considerate and discerning in their choices, and to honour and care for their purchases for years to come, thus choosing and keeping them.