Future of Norwich market fruit and vegetable stall is in family hands
PUBLISHED: 07:30 06 January 2017 | UPDATED: 14:18 06 January 2017
Copyright: Archant 2017
Family is the name of the game for one market stall, with parents and sons working together every day.
Mike Read started out on Mike, Debs and Sons Fruit and Veg 48 years ago.
“It started with me as a Saturday boy, for Sid Lucas” said the 60-year-old.
“At 15 I left school and I’ve been here ever since, I took over when Sid retired.”
When they got married, Mike’s wife Deborah came on board, and as time went on their sons, James, 28, and Brendan, 26, stepped into the family business.
On the stall, fruit and vegetables of all colours are stacked high, appealing to customers passing by on Gentleman’s Walk.
But Mike said he had seen things change for fruit and vegetable stalls over the years.
“Back in those days [when he started] there were less supermarkets, we had about two,” he said.
“And people have got far more choice now. They do take notice of things like the five-a-day.
“Back in the early days there were 80 fruit and vegetable stalls, now there are three of us, and we make it nice.”
He pointed towards trends such as juicing and an increase in vegetarianism and veganism, which we said had an impact on their sales.
And he said they now had much more variety on the stall, as they catered for different cultures around the city.
“An example is the purple sweet potato,” said Brendan. “The Chinese have it as a dessert but New Zealanders have them as crisps.”
Brendan and James started on the stall seven and fours year ago respectively.
They said they gave up their previous plans because family was the most important thing to them.
Brendan had been studying at university, while James was a mechanic.
Brendan said: “Mum and Dad wanted to employ someone else and I wanted to keep it in the family.
“You can trust one another and we all work as hard as each other.
“It’s a 70 hour week, six days a week, but it’s worth it.
James added: “A lot of people don’t see their family enough so we’re quite lucky.”
Find Mike, Debs and Sons in row B, facing Gentleman’s Walk - stalls 46 and 47.
You can also follow them on Twitter @MikeDebsandSons, or on Facebook by searching ‘Mike, Debs and Sons Fruit and Veg’.
Variety of fruit and vegetables are on offer
At £2.20 per kg, the first items the Read family pointed out were Seville oranges which Deborah said were particulary good for making marmalade.
“You can make it as thick or as fine as you like,” she said.
Also popular, especially with new year juicing resolution, were leafy greens - kale, cavolo nero and spinach - which were all £1 a bunch.
Deborah said: “There are so many benefits, such as spinach improving the eye muscles.”
Finally, the king oyster mushrooms on sale for £1.50 per 100g, were highlighted as an alternative to meat.
Mike said: “If you slice them longways then fry them in garlic butter, they have the texture of a pork chop.
“Slice them cross ways and they are more like scallops - great for vegetarians and vegans.
“And you’ll also find them in Thai food such as Tom Yum soup.”
Why we love this stall
Olive Westrup, 72, and Joan Goddard, 68, both from Poringland: “Everything here is always nice and fresh. We’re new customers, here they’re good and very helpful.”
Jo Campbell, 56, said: “It’s always fresh and they’re always so helpful and friendly.
“I’ve been coming here years, I lived in the city for 20 years. I lost nine stone and the fruit and vegetables helped with that.”
Ceri Lamb: “I come here because they have a good variety.
“It’s an opportunity to have a look at what you’re buying, which you don’t always get in the supermarkets, and you can buy in smaller quantities.
“If you have to buy in packs sometimes things go off.”
How the market has changed
Mike said he had seen positive changes on the market since its redesign in 2006.
“This new council team we have got, they’re doing a good job,” he said.
“They’re letting different stalls come on and they’ve realised we have got to change with the times.”
He welcomed new food stalls coming onto the market too, but said he would like to see changes made so people could get to the market easier.
He suggested parking bays which would allow people to park for a short time and pop onto the market, or a bus stop closer so customers didn’t have to carry heavy shopping very far. He would also like to see the toilets renovated.
“But it’s much cleaner now than it used to be,” he said.
“And tourism is a big thing, this is one of the major attractions for the city.”
Deborah added: “It’s like an outdoor supermarket, it’s so important.”
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