Family Businesses: The Backbone of our Neighbourhood

///Family Businesses: The Backbone of our Neighbourhood
Family Businesses: The Backbone of our Neighbourhood 2017-10-05T17:10:46+00:00

May 2017

City Organizer: Christien Stoker
Walk Leader: Christien Stoker
Text by: Christien Stoker
Photographs by: Petra van Leeuwen and Christien Stoker

The ‘Bomenbuurt’ neighbourhood in The Hague is a hundred years old, just like Jane Jacobs. And some of the family owned businesses in the neighbourhood have been here since the beginning. There is a photo shop, a men’s clothes shop, an animal food shop that are run by the third generation. And the good news is, most of them have a young family member that passionately contributes to our lively neighbourhood. They survive the mega shops and thrive in this era of internet shopping because they offer time, personal attention and great service. They are the backbone of the Bomenbuurt, which translates as “neighbourhood of trees.”

It’s Saturday morning, ten minutes to 10. As the walk leader I am surprised to already meet 10 people waiting for me at the bridge! The walk hits the shopping streets of the neighbourhood. We talk to shop owners that have time for us. They tell us about the early days, how they manage to survive today and how they feel about the recent redesign of the streets. I lead this walk for the second year and after our walk, I have collected at least four new stories!  One of them is a great example of how there is always something new to discover in the neighbourhood you live in.

I had only recently discovered a carillon hanging above one of the shops. Ten years of living here, and I bike here every day, and I had never seen it! Just as I tell the group I do not know anything about it, we bump into a shopkeeper that is just sweeping her stoop. She knows a jewellery shop used to own it. And there is a little cupboard inside the apartment above the shop, that holds a book of songs that can be played by the carillon. But since the last people moved, the key was lost. How great would it be if the carillon could play again, around Christmas for instance? And light up the neighbourhood even more?

So next year, I will lead this walk for a third time. I have new stories to share, hope to collect new ones once more. And of course, I will try to let the carillon play a song for us!