If your travels have taken you anywhere near London’s Paddington Station recently you might have noticed two efficient-looking Japanese gents striding around with pencils behind their ears, tape measures clipped to belts, cameras at the ready and tenuguis (Japan’s answer to the bandana, only better) loosely knotted around their necks. Yoshi, the more senior of the two, is often seen talking to contractors, chasing builders and looking wide-eyed when he’s told of delays. Kaoru, more broad-shouldered and with a better tan, is usually seen conferring with his colleague Richard and always keeping an eye on any small detail that may be out of place.
As this issue ships off to press, just as the UK returns from its bank holiday and the US breaks for Labor Day, we’ve been putting our latest retail venture through its paces in preparation for its debut later this month. By the time this issue is being palleted and loaded onto 747s at Heathrow, the Dinesen wood floors, Vitsoe shelves and La Marzocco espresso machine should all be in place in Norfolk Place and the wrapper should be coming off the first-ever Kioskafé.
While it’s been a little longer in the making than we would have liked – you try building something of quality on time and on budget in London – our new concept is a response to the generally saggy state of magazine retail. Developed as a sunny, optimistic rebuttal to the rather negative narrative that people aren’t buying magazines, that periodicals have had their day and that the future is digital, Kioskafé has a very simple mission: to offer the best selection of magazines and newspapers, backed up by good coffee and an assortment of travel essentials. Since it’s less than a two-minute walk from Paddington Station and the Heathrow train, around the corner from St Mary’s Hospital and across the street from the Frontline Club (a hang-out and hostel for London-based correspondents), we’re treating this first location as something of a lab and it has been designed to cater to commuters and long-haul travellers who want a good magazine fix before they jump on the train to Cornwall or board a flight to Mexico City.
For those in not so much of a rush there’s a low counter to perch and peruse Die Zeit or Hurriyet, as well as plenty of outside seating – good sturdy Swiss stools and benches – to grab a coffee while waiting for hospital visiting hours to kick in or a Frontline Club screening to start.
We’ve worked hard to make the selection of titles on the shelves a mix of the much loved and commercial, combined with just-launched indies that get shelf space not because they’re new and hyped but because they offer journalistic value. This means you’ll be able to stock up on Country Life, German AD, The Economist, The Lady and Der Spiegel while also getting hold of Smith Journal, Sumu, Protein, Another Escape and many more.
All in, we reckon we’ll have 300 main titles and a huge catalogue of print on-demand newspapers that you’ll be able to order in advance; or sip a flat white while you wait for your Aftenposten to come off the printer. We’ve also taken into consideration a core audience that’s on the move and occasionally gets caught out because a flight has been cancelled, a set of keys to a borrowed apartment has been lost or five well-wrapped gifts are urgently required for a meeting with important Korean clients. We’ll help you deal with those moments when you find yourself still in west London or when you’ve decided to skip the train back to Bristol because you’re going to be bunking in one of the beautifully appointed bedrooms above our shop run by the Frontline. And just as we’ve come up with a tight edit of titles to fill your tote, we’ve also kept all of our travel essentials to a minimum – shower gel from Trehs, shampoo and deodorant from Rausch, pens from Caran d’Ache, underwear from The White Briefs, toothbrushes from Jordan, two special-edition bags from our friends at Yoshida in Tokyo and everything else to sort you out from top to toe.
If you happen to be in London on Saturday 26 September we’ll be trying out a new concept with Monocle 24 to tie in with the launch of Kioskafé, in the form of our weekly print-media show, The Stack, broadcast before a live studio audience at Midori House. Pulling in an international group of respected editors, we’ll be thrashing out the key topics of the day and then hosting a small late-morning reception over at our new digs in Norfolk Place. You can contact us at Midori House (phone or email) to purchase tickets.
Finally, if you think your neighbourhood or airport could use a branch of Kioskafé, we’re looking for licensee partners. As usual you can send along all thoughts, comments, offers and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or my trusty colleague Matt Faint at email@example.com. Thank you for your support.