It’s coming. The rising containers tell us that. Here, next to the station, where nothing has been for so long.
These black boxes, stalled for an age by planning and signatures, are finally climbing and stacking their way into shape. In just over a month’s time the plumbing, the electrics and the staff will be installed. BoxPark Croydon will be open for business.
Amidst the hoopla of slow cooked short rib, dead hippies and Craft IPA there will, no doubt, be an undercurrent of concern.
Hipsterification, gentrification, how long can we fetishise average food on paper plates?
Prices too high, diversity too low, where are the local businesses anyway?
Two booming weekends then a little bit of drizzle, how do we turn tables on a wet Wednesday in November?
All questions you can expect to hear, ask or be asked.
But across town, I fear, concern will be even greater.
The people that have built a food community that excited BoxPark enough to bring it here deserve to be recognised, remembered and celebrated.
South Croydon has a “Restaurant Quarter” that, on the face of it, seems to be struggling. Pizza Express – a good corporate bellwether of commercial viability – recently pulled its outlet from the area.
In South End we have tens of independents that could do with more support. Not once have I seen a queue outside the door of a restaurant here. Yet BoxPark will bring 20+ more food and drink options to a town that can’t quite keep its current crop alive.
Yes, BoxPark will attract its own crowd, and will hang on to some after workers who otherwise may have fled elsewhere. I hope it also, through support of local businesses, and the championing of good food at sensible prices, encourages people to go off site – to explore Croydon and the other modest selection of eats and drinks we have to offer.
Come September we must remember the people that excite us now. The crushed-and-smooth-beaners, the Matthew’s Yarders, the old timers and the trying harders. We need to keep the scene alive beyond the temporary tin roofs of shipping containers. We must tell our friends over beer at BoxPark of great pizzas at 500degrees, and heady Pho at Viet2Go. The future of food in Croydon can’t be constrained to a container park by the station. If it is, the creative, bold and ambitious businesses that might just spark the next ‘big idea’ will be forced into a box of their own.
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