A London shopkeeper has been branded a “racist” merely for opening a shop celebrating all things British.
Chris Ostwald, 54, was taken by surprise when his shop ‘Really British’ sparked a storm of criticism from the local Muswell Hill community in North London.
The shop sells a range of quintessentially British items such as London Underground tea towels, brown sauce, suffragette aprons, and old-fashioned compasses. Yet despite the uncontroversial fare, locals have reacted furiously while accusing him of being culturally insensitive at a time of heightened racial tensions.
Mr. Ostwald said: “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?
“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.”
Such has been the ferocity of the negative reaction to the shop that Mr. Ostwald has been forced to remove Union flags for fear of reprisals, while a Spanish shop assistant walked out after just one day working due to the level of abuse she suffered.
Other critics have taken to social media to post complaints. 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.”
But Mr. Ostwald said his intention was never to make any sort of political statement. Rather, it was intended simply to celebrate Britain.
“When the idea came to me, it was kind of around Brexit time,” he told the Mail Online.
“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 that I feel like we’ve lost our identity and need to get it back.”
Speaking to the Evening Standard he added: “I thought I’d get a bit of a reaction but nothing like what I have seen.
“Yesterday I had three strong complaints which included people telling us they would boycott us and placard us.
“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.
“We’ve had Greek shoppers and Pakistanis in and they love it. They seem to be more proud of Britain than we are.”