What do a party shop, a bakery, a barber coffee shop, a record shop, a florist and a vintage store all have in common? They all call County Road home.
Most people would have you believe that the North is nothing but the home to a ground where a couple of footballs are kicked back and forth – how wrong. Metal shutters over shops, abandoned factories and derelict buildings are a sight all too common, especially in North Liverpool areas but there are two sides to this story. For every first page of Google depicting police chases, robberies and vandalism, there’s a second page with wonderful people just waiting to tell their story. Amid the abandoned divinity there’s a community that cannot be broken or beaten. Where the characters are everything, the atmosphere is electric and the offering is eclectic. Welcome to County Road.
Walton is one of the oldest areas of settlement in Merseyside. Walton’s recorded history appears to have started with the death of Edward the Confessor, when it was said that “Winestan held the manor of Walton”. Walton lost its independence in 1985 when it was made part of the Liverpool Borough Council but don’t let that confuse you, they’re still pretty independent. The area has a vast history but as of late has become a road that doesn’t always hit the headlines for the right reasons. In order to counteract this, we headed down to show the street in pictures and also meet the people making it special.
After a sausage roll from the absolute Walton powerhouse that is Phil Manion to start the day, we just strolled down the street in search of hidden gems. We sat down with John May, local Liverpool legend and owner of Sweeps barber shop that has recently just had a coffee shop visited. A debonair man who is equal parts charm and inspiration. He grew up just around the corner and has County Road in his blood. When he’s not acting all around the world you can find him at Sweeps, saying hello to near enough every person that walks past. We couldn’t tell if they were strangers, friends or clients, and that’s what was special. “You get all walks of life around here” John tells us as he laughs and recalls his favourite.
Sweeps is an absolute institution and despite the recent ket wig craze, has been going ten years strong. The shop is an elegant 1920s styled coffee house that will hit you right in your sweet tooth whilst your ears get lowered. Whilst it was incredibly hard for him to answer, he let us know his favourite moment over the last decade. John said “On the opening day, I walked around and saw people chatting and getting their hair cut, people catching up over a coffee and local kids enjoying an ice cream and it was the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. I created this, I created my own dream.” John’s ambitions are to stay and open businesses for the local community in deprived areas: “I just want to bring class to the working class” he tells us.
As soon as we left, we bumped into Godfrey next door, the Camden-town man who oozed an endearing swagger. He welcomed us into his home and introduced us to his wife and kids. His wife’s name is Anna and she’s from Sweden and they’ve always shared a passion for fashion. Two years ago they left London and came to County Road to open “Freedom of Ztyle”. “When we told people we were opening a coffee shop on County Road people thought we were mad but we always thought why not?”. When we asked what the history of the shop was Godfrey interjected with “I just looked at Anna one day and said right, let’s do this. I want to open a shop together and watch our kids grow up at the same time. Are you in?”. And despite a few bits of Feng Shui, we feel like they’ve got their happily ever after.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon drifting. Admiring the beautiful architecture of Bernie May’s bistro, rummaging through the vinyl at the incredible Harlequin and laughing our heads off to “Off Your Cake” our new favourite name for a cake shop. We took a meticulously delicate cake and a coffee around The Church of St Mary The Virgin and admired the huge street art that has given a face lift to the old Ethel Austins. The Segura is a great place for a pint, you can do hot yoga at Yoga Nation and you can even visit the local pet shop. In a world where our local high streets are all looking the same, County Road is a hedonistic and peaceful protest against a world of homogeneity. It’s just so real you can’t not love it. There’s lots we’ve missed out from the road and area but do not despair, we’ll be back to tell their story but for now, we implore you to head down and tell them we sent you.