Although the current economic situation has forced many shops in Athens to close, certain shops never seem to be affected by what is going on around them; they just carry on regardless. One such shop is C & M Angelopoulou on Plateia Agias Eirinis, one of the prettiest squares of Athens, where Lord Byron stayed when he first visited the city. It specializes in everything required for sewing, knitting and darning. However, there is much, much more hidden behind its modest façade.
The business was started by Elias Angelopoulou in 1925 and he was the first importer to Greece of such things from Europe, America and Japan. It is the oldest and largest of its type and is now run by his two daughters, Maria and Chryssoula, in exactly the same way as their father did! This is no ordinary shop, it is a living museum.
Crossing the threshold, you step into another world and, depending on what catches your eye, it could be that of the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s or even ‘60s. You do not have to be an expert in embroidery, knitting or sewing to appreciate what lies before you, stacked in perfect order up to the ceiling; it is pure visual delight.
There is enough to write about to fill a book, so here is just a sample of what first meets the eye. Every type of metal implement required for sewing from Germany; needles for every use, some finer than a human hair for beading; row upon row of neatly sorted buttons – glass ones from Paris, mother-of-pearl from Japan, studs for jeans and metal military ones from America; every type of lace, Batista from Austria, Valenciennes from Brussels; ‘passemanterie’ for dressmaking; metal braiding in silver and gold; a sample book of military braiding dating from the 1940s; galalith (a pliable plastic) combs and knitting-needles from America; shuttles and threads on wooden spools in every colour imaginable; and cotton velour ribbons from Switzerland. There are also razors for gentlemen, suspender belts, hairpins and ornaments for the hair, bobby socks with multi-striped borders, and enamel cuff links from France, dating from the 1930s. Everything is in its original packaging.
But what makes a visit to this shop so worthwhile is that the shop is still laid out for business today as it first was in 1925. It is a unique experience in every possible way.