A London Warehouse District Hopes to Keep Its Edge

LONDON — Hackney Wick seems one of the few areas of London that’s still on the cusp of gentrification. Around the corner from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, it’s benefiting from upgrades tied to the 2012 Olympics and has become a hipster haunt brimming with bars, breweries and a smattering of shops.

With its wall-to-wall warehouses, Hackney Wick, in east London, looks at first glance like a postindustrial hinterland. Yet many of those warehouses host popular watering holes, busy workshops and budding brands, a few of which operate shops of a particular kind.

Steps away from the newly rebuilt Hackney Wick tube station and in a vast Victorian yard is Crate Brewery, a onetime print factory used by squatters, where a thin-crust pizza cost 13 pounds ($17), a new zero-waste restaurant has opened and outdoor tables overlook a narrow canal and buildings emblazoned with rainbow-colored graffiti.

A short walk away, a large, unmarked warehouse in a parking lot is the headquarters of Percival Menswear, where the full range of hipster’s apparel can be ordered online and tried on by appointment: everything from beanies and hoodies to ribbed turtlenecks and boldly patterned shirts. Percival has returned to selling from its Hackney Wick headquarters after opening a store in Soho.

The small warehouse next door holds Victoria Yum, a small, skylit patisserie with trays of cupcakes and muffins on the coffee counter at the front. At the back, behind shelves stocked with recipe books and old cake mixers, the owner and founder, Kiersten Donohue, does some of the baking for clients, which include the Harrods and Selfridge’s department stores.

Ms. Donohue recalled that when she first moved to Hackney Wick with her husband in 2001, people delivering pizzas wouldn’t venture over for fear of being robbed and round-the-clock illegal partying meant that she would sometimes wake up to find a joy-ridden car on her doorstep.

As the Olympics approached, “everything got cleaned up,” she said. “There were a lot of dilapidated houses where people were squatting and things like that. All of that went. It’s almost like they just steamrollered through, took out all the bad bits, and left all the art and culture.”

One contributor to the art-and-culture scene is Vinyl Pimp, which operates out of a warehouse on a street nearby. The shambolic secondhand record store, founded by the D.J. and Hong Kong native Man Hon Luk, is all about recycling. Previously owned albums are processed and cleaned, then put on sale in custom-built boxes, next to a listening post with an old Technics turntable and a pair of wired headphones. Here, you’ll find everything from Perry Como (for £3) to Bjork (for about £30) to the British electronic music star Aphex Twin (for as much as £400).

Asked about the area’s “hipsterization,” Mr. Luk laughed and said: “I’m part of it! I sell records!” He described what he does as “shooting myself in the foot” — his landlord is now seeking to raise his rent by more than nearly 50 percent.

“There is a limited time for us here,” he said. “It’s not going to be forever. We’re just going to look for the next up-and-coming area.”

Meantime, in what Mr. Luk described as another act of self-injury, he is striving for a “zero-waste shop,” and ending shipping to international customers to limit his carbon footprint. The move could cost him a third of his annual turnover.

Other shops in the area are at the other end of the retail spectrum: sleek spaces with gleaming glass fronts. These stores occupy the street-level floors of apartment blocks sprouting all over.

Wick Boards sells electric skateboards (including its own line) and accessories for them, such as wristbands, knee bands, T-shirts and sweatshirts. Its walls are covered with framed posters (including one of the movie “Blade Runner”) and painted, collectible skateboards. A board can range from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds.

The store opened last year to fill a gap in the market: It was a place where people could test-ride an electric board in the nearby forests and park, rather than just buy online. The Wick store was broken into in June; a van slammed through the main door, and £30,000 of merchandise was taken. Now, it’s back to business as usual, with the store hoping to make up for the uninsured loss.

The most upscale retailer in Hackney Wick is Béton Brut, a large, airy space that specializes in 20th-century collectible furniture and lighting. On a recent visit, the showroom had a leather armchair attributed to the star Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, and a dining table by the Italian designer Mario Bellini, whose modular Camaleonda sofas are a store best seller. Half of Béton Brut’s clients are in Britain and half in the United States, interior designers and collectors based mainly in New York and California.

Its founder and director, Sophie Pearce, said she favored the area because “I like this constant change and newness,” adding: “You walk around a corner and someone has started a thing. It maintains this flow of life.”

She said she hoped Hackney Wick would retain that energy and vitality, and welcomed the decision last December by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, to provide funding to foster creativity and jobs in Hackney and five other zones.

Ms. Pearce said this should not mean just “another shared work space, or more desk space for graphic designers,” calling that unnecessary. The lifeline of the area, she said, is warehouselike studios, ateliers and workshops where artists and designers can make things and be messy and noisy — “the kind of spaces,” she added, “that will both be used by the car mechanic and the artist.”

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