The owner of a London gift shop has been caught up in a post-Brexit ‘racism’ row for selling British-themed wares.
Chris Ostwald, 54, last month opened the “Really British” store in upmarket Muswell Hill but has been met with a barrage of complaints over the name.
He said some locals had threatened to stage boycotts and protests over the shop that sells a wide range of British-themed products; brown sauce, London underground tea towels and ‘Muswell Hillbillies’ mugs, in a nod to the album by legendary group the Kinks, who hailed from the area.
A large number of union jack-inspired designs are also on sale. But it Mr Ostwald’s decision to call the shop “Really British” has triggered fury.
He told Mail Online: “A guy came in the other day and said, ‘what’s this, a charity shop?’ We said, ‘no, not at all’, and he said, ‘well it’s racist’, and stormed out.”
He added: “People have been coming in and just tut tutting and walking out again.”
He said it was “mad” that he was facing such criticism and insisted his store is just a “British-themed shop celebrating British products”.
He also said that one of his assistants, a Spanish national, walked out after just one day after being subject to a barrage of abuse.
Mr Ostwald told the Evening Standard: “I thought I’d get a bit of a reaction but nothing like what I have seen. People in Muswell Hill are a bit liberal and they are taking it far too seriously. There is nothing political about this.
“I was asked when I opened if it was a ‘Ukip shop’ or a ‘Brexit shop’ but we are just a British-themed shop celebrating products made here.”
He said that he had had shoppers from a number of nationalities visiting the store, but said that the only ones who suggested he was racist were British. “It’s almost the reverse of racism,” he said.
Critics have said the shop is against London’s “international nature” and implied that other businesses on the street “weren’t British”.
One man wrote on Facebook: “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’.”
James Walpole wrote: ‘Really British” is a bit of an odd choice so soon after the referendum in a area that voted remain, and I think it will put a lot of people off.
Poster Bridget Rudder said: ‘I think the name is fine providing the shop is selling British made goods? Which are Made in Britain fabrics and raw materials sources in Britain… very unlikely unless they are wares sold by the owner, given our industry is all about importing cheap and selling high, which means if the shop doesn’t it is just cleverly playing on the political climate and not supporting British industry… hmm not so British…’
However, while some were outraged, others supported Mr Ostwald.
Liz Waterhouse wrote: ‘Haha I knew someone would soon moan about the name. Errr what country are we in? Get a life!’
Mr Ostwald said he has no plans to make any changes and argued the furore over Brexit had led to anger at his gift shop.
He added: “It’s about products not politics. I’m not particularly interested in politics, but this stuff with Brexit has gone too far we should just get on with it.
“It’s like people want to hide away our identity. For me it would be like banning pizzas in Italy.”
Pictures from Chris Ostwald