On a quaint stretch of Chiltern Street, in the heart of the Marylebone neighborhood of London, Sandeep Garg has been presiding over Shreeji Newsagents since 1982. He entered the business by chance. “During my holidays, I came into the shop to help the neighbors, who owned it,” he recalls. “I ended up buying it from them a few months later.”
In the subsequent decades, Shreeji has become a local institution, specializing in a highly curated selection of magazines, newspapers, and sundries—which has made it one of those small but essential public places that knit a neighborhood together. Over the past six months, it has been undergoing a meticulous renovation and expansion resulting from a pleasant partnership with Gabriel Chipperfield, the young developer and project manager who is known for his work in the art world, and had become a fan of Garg’s.
“We were attracted to each other’s character,” says Chipperfield, whose recent projects include designing a series of painting-and-sculpting studios for the artist Tracey Emin. In talking to Garg, he saw an opportunity to update the design of the shop and make it a showcase for what a newsstand could be in the 21st century.
“While half of the project would be about creating something new, the other would be about preserving the store, and keeping Garg at the front to greet and serve all the friends and neighbors that rely on him,” Chipperfield says. “We knew that we had a window, literally, to showcase good design, but we were also conscious of not overshadowing some of the small, daily items that we would sell, like the newspapers, magazines, and coffee.”
Garg was taken with the idea, though regulars sometimes joked his next move should be hosting a morning chat show.
Chipperfield enlisted his wife, the curator and Air Mail Editor at Large Laura de Gunzburg, to consult on the design and dream up the reading room that now sits in the back of the shop. “We argue a lot about aesthetics, but like all good processes, it helps to get to a nice end product,” says Chipperfield. “Laura pushed the idea of reviving the Victorian shopkeeper’s apartment in the back and downstairs, to make it inviting for various creative opportunities.”
The team invited Air Mail to join the project, and in addition to our presence on the façade, our touches are found throughout the Shreeji experience. The coffee cups, for example, are designed by contributing artist Donald Robertson. For the time being, Shreeji’s front kiosk is open nine a.m. to three p.m., in strict accordance with all local ordinances. Later this year, the coffee bar, reading room, and exhibition spaces will open in earnest. “We hope it will serve as an area for our friends and colleagues to host events and use as showrooms for their own projects,” says Chipperfield. But until then, do stop by for a coffee and magazine—and a bit of chat from Garg.
Ashley Baker is the Style Editor for Air Mail