‘Really British’ store in Muswell Hill branded ‘racist’ by shoppers, Ham&High

A shopkeeper has defended his novelty gift shop after it has been boycotted by shoppers who branded it ‘pro-Brexit’ and ‘racist’. By Anna Behrmann

Chris Ostwald has defended his 'Really British' shop after numerous complaints. Photo: Polly Hancock
Chris Ostwald has defended his ‘Really British’ shop after numerous complaints. Photo: Polly Hancock

The shop in Muswell Hill caused a storm on social media with owner Chris Ostwald, 54, forced to remove his British flags on the opening day on November 26 because he received so many complaints.

One of the shop assistants, who is Spanish, left after just one day because of all the snide remarks she received.

The shop sells British-themed gifts and homeware. Their products include condiments, such as brown sauce, London underground tea towels and “Muswell Hillbillies” mugs, which references the Kinks album. There are also suffragette aprons and stocking fillers such as old fashioned compasses.

Mr Otswald, 54, told the Ham&High: “The shop is in no way meant to be ‘political’ or ‘pro Brexit’, but we have had a lot of complaints saying it is or we are ‘racist!”

“A guy came in the other day and said, ‘what’s this, a charity shop?’ and we said, ‘no, not at all’, and he said, ‘well it’s racist’, and stormed out.”

Mr Ostwald added: “People have been coming in and just tutting and walking out.”

There have been other comments on Facebook, with one person arguing that the name is not inclusive.

One man wrote on public Facebook group Muswell Hill and Friends: “Chris, while I applaud you setting up a business in Muswell Hill and employing local people I’m curious as to why you decided to call your shop ‘Really British’ (besides the obvious point that you will sell British made goods)?

“Like many people I live in London because of its international nature, and for me personally having a big sign on the Broadway saying ‘Really British’ makes me feel you’re implying that other local businesses in the area are therefore somehow ‘not really British’.

“Some will no doubt say I’m over-sensitive but I can’t help thinking that given the recent divisive referendum and the current political climate you might have chosen a more inclusive name in 2016.”

More than 75 per cent of people in Haringey voted to remain in the EU.

Another person on the group asked: “Do you have to be really British to work in the shop?”

Describing the inspiration behind his shop, Mr Ostwald, who also owns the Crocodile Café across the road, said, “When the idea came to me, it was kind of around Brexit time, and I just thought well now is the time when importing things from Europe is going to cost more money, let’s look to our own resources a bit and buy more things from England, promoting our own products.

“When you go to Sainsbury’s, it’s all about eat Indian, eat Chinese, eat Italian – you have to find the roast dinners somewhere at the back at the bottom shelf, they’ve been pushing continental things for so many years, I feel like we’ve lost our identity.”

There are also critical online reviews including one querying whether his items are Chinese imports, rather than British-made.

But Mr Ostwald said: “We intended the shop to be a celebration of “Englishness” and want to sell things that are ‘quintessentially British’…

“A lot of English designers have things made abroad due to costs of manufacture in the UK, so we think it’s ok to sell them, as we are promoting ‘the British way of life’ if you like, rather than strictly ‘made in the UK.”

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