One shop sells nothing but buttons, another sells only liquorice, and another is ‘the world’s first textile butcher shop’. In the age of Amazon, it seems the way to thrive is to specialise
On the first floor of a nondescript 1,000 sq metre industrial unit in Berlin’s Steglitz district, four workers are cautiously placing pregnant queen ants into test tubes in order to dispatch them across Europe. This is Antstore, the world’s first specialist ant shop, a business with around two dozen employees, a glass-cutting workshop, plastic and plaster modelling studios and a full-time social media manager.
It is just one of the surprisingly large number of shops in Berlin that sell only one thing, be it crawly insects, salty sweets, sticky tape or miniature string instruments. With online retail sales changing the face of high streets in cities around the world, many wonder if this hyper-specialisation could be more than an accidental side effect of the German capital’s tumultuous history, and also a blueprint for the high street of the future.