My Stokey: Lawrence Albonico
By Trevor Jones
A cheerful and outgoing character, and clearly an astute businessperson, Lawrence Albonico has been in Stoke Newington since 1987 when he bought Next Move estate agents on Church Street.
He was born in Oakwood, near Southgate, and he lived there until he was 12 years old before going to a Hampshire boarding school. Lawrence came back to London to work in the West End for several advertising agencies, including Young and Rubicam, as a TV advertising slot buyer before moving into property development.
Although his business is in Stokey he lives with his wife and young son on his farm in Hampshire. Appropriately for Stokey, his farm is both green and self-sufficient. ‘Not so much a farm, but a large house with a lot of land. We keep animals and we grow and cut hay to feed them. We also chop wood for fuel.’ He lives in Hampshire because his partner is Hampshire born and bred, and her roots are there.
So, what was Stokey like in 1987? ‘It had a similar village atmosphere as now, but a lot of the houses were in a poor condition and there was a lot less money around.’ In the early 1990s ‘you could buy a house for £90K, but now I find it hard to get my head round the huge prices.’ How has the area changed? ‘The changes are superficial – there is more money spent, smarter houses and better businesses, but the place feels the same.’ Lawrence dislikes the ‘bloody parking’, but feels that ‘Stokey people are relaxed, as a whole. There is a good mix of people which is central to what's going on.’ He thinks there is a strong sense of belonging and, because he has been in Stokey for 20 years, he feels ‘part of the community’.
Lawrence has recently opened an Islington branch of Next Move because, as in Stokey, ‘people like independent estate agents’. His Islington business ‘draws in high budget people’ but he has got a highly visible presence in Stoke Newington and for him this is the ‘best of both worlds.’ Anyhow, ‘there is a lot of movement of people between Islington and Stoke Newington’.
Through Next Move, Lawrence has ‘tried to do a lot of things in the community’. He invested in the old, now sadly defunct, Stoke Newington Festival, is one of the principal sponsors of the N16 Fringe Festival, and he is involved in local school activities. ‘I have tried to put something back into the community, and I am not trying to have a corporate image.’
He says that a lot of his staff ‘have been with us for years and live in Stoke Newington’. He would like to think that Next Move is ‘laid back and relaxed, but highly professional’ and that this mirrors the attitude of many people in the area. It seems clear that, under his stewardship, Next Move will remain part of the local scenery for a long time to come.