Danny Michelson: La Fromagerie’s ‘Mr Highbury’ dies with Covid-19
- Credit: Archant
A community stalwart who was “Mr Highbury” and helped create an award-winning chain of cheese shops died with Covid-19 on April 8.
Danny Michelson, 76, helped his wife Patricia build the La Fromagerie business she founded in a garden shed into three hugely-popular cheese shops in Highbury, Marylebone and Bloomsbury.
Danny, an avid Arsenal fan and season ticket holder, used to chair the Highbury Barn Traders’ Association.
He was a “fit, energetic and healthy” man and a “formidable” tennis opponent who used to jog around Highbury Fields every day.
He is survived by his wife Patricia, their daughters Kate and Rose, and four grandsons.
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Patricia Michelson and Danny were together for 48 years, 30 of which they spent building the La Fromagerie business.
Patricia told the Gazette: “He loved the shop in Highbury. He was always going around to all the shops but Highbury was his little domain and he loved running that. [...] He was very much a part of Highbury and did a lot for the street. It’s one of those unique little neighbourhood streets that everybody goes to and loves.
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“He was always very supportive of women in business and he loved retail, he is the sort of guy who loved to be in a shop putting it together. He had great style, an eye for detail.
“He had a great sense of humour that a lot of people sometimes didn’t get because it was very dry, but those who knew and loved him thought he was hilarious. “He hated bureaucracy. He hated being a number or not being listened to. One of his greatest things was any PCN he got, he challenged. He was a great challenger of the council and would fight hard the corner of the people.”
Danny took TfL to small claims court in May 2017 after a camera mistakenly failed to register that his all-electric car was exempt from the daily central London congestion charge levy.
TfL was ordered to refund him £60, but took so long to do so that Danny sent bailiffs to recover his money. TfL later “apologised unreservedly”.
Patricia added: “I think his humour shone through even when he was taking TfL to court. He was like a little terrier, he would be biting at your ankles until you gave in. He was also extremely generous and a great person to go to if you wanted to discuss anything or had a problem because he would find a solution.
“We are carrying on. Danny’s legacy will carry on.”
Chris Godfrey of Godfery’s Butchers in Highbury Barn told the Gazette: “He was a great guy, he was ‘Mr Highbury’ and a legend. He was a big fan of Highbury and he used to look after our interests in the Barn. He was a great tradesman. He was very active in campaigning for people. He had a great personality, he achieved great things. People that come into the shop might be grumpy about the lockdown but without people putting their life on the line they wouldn’t have food.
“I did see Danny before the lockdown and said: ‘I wonder how many of us will come out the other side,’ it’s very poignant now. We did a minute’s silence for him outside [on Tuesday].”
Former Lib Dems Islington Council leader Terry Stacy MBE said: “Islington has lost a true character in the sad passing of Danny Michelson. From being an avid Arsenal fan to being a great champion of independent businesses, he was never backwards in telling you exactly what he thought, especially with the council and its politicians. And I was many a times as a councillor at the receiving end of this. Him and his family’s commitment to the borough was second to none. Islington and Highbury have lost a true champion of local businesses and is going to be worse off as a result of it.”
Cllr Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East) said: “I still remember my first visit to the Fromagerie at Highbury Barn, twenty eight years ago when Patricia and Danny first opened their shop - it has grown in reputation over the years and now provides cheese to restaurants and shoppers across London.
“It was lovely to see Danny so engaged at our most recent ward partnership meeting looking at ways to make our streets more people friendly, we haven’t totally agreed on traffic issues across the years but we always remained in constructive dialogue.
“Danny was truly one of the anchors holding traders together at Highbury Barn. It will be very different without him and all the great work he did together with fellow traders making sure that good things like the Christmas lights and hanging baskets happen. My thoughts are with Patricia and their daughters.”