Stall of the Week: Herbs and Spices selling to the people of Norwich for 40 years

Gareth Butcher and Isaac King at Norwich Market Stall of the Week Herbs and Spices. Picture: Dominic

Gareth Butcher and Isaac King at Norwich Market Stall of the Week Herbs and Spices. Picture: Dominic Gilbert - Credit: Archant

For four decades Herbs and Spices has been a staple of life at Norwich Market.

Gareth Butcher at Norwich Market Stall of the Week Herbs and Spices. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

Gareth Butcher at Norwich Market Stall of the Week Herbs and Spices. Picture: Dominic Gilbert - Credit: Archant

And throughout most of that time Gareth Butcher, now 67, has worked alongside his wife Jane Wirgman to keep the stall going through thick and thin.

As part of the Evening News' Get Behind Your Market campaign, we'll be featuring one stall a week, to let you get to know your local traders better.

And today, we feature Mr Butcher, who has spent the last 40 years selling all varieties of herbs, spices, condiments, dried fruit and nuts to the people of Norwich. 'The stall has been here for longer than that - since 1975,' he said. 'The reason I came here is it was my wife's stall and she sent me to work on it. Before that I was a musician playing guitar, which I still do. 'I never really thought about how long I would be here. After the first 10 years it became a bit of a blur. I quite like it. It is useful and interesting, and it is good to be doing something vaguely useful.'

Mr Butcher says the loss of the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital on St Stephen's Road was the biggest hit the market has taken during his time there. 'It used to be a bustling and thriving place,' he said. 'Everything that was necessary to draw people into the city centre like the Post Office and utilities were all here, and people would have to come into the city to pay their bills. 'Most important was the loss of the hospital. The hospital was a major employer and thousands of people would come to the city centre. As soon as that went you noticed the decline. 'You can't adapt for that - the sudden absence of a large client stream. You just have to keep doing whatever it was you did. You have got to be consistent. I have watched lots of people ruin their business by innovating.'

Gareth Butcher at Norwich Market Stall of the Week Herbs and Spices. Picture: Dominic Gilbert

Gareth Butcher at Norwich Market Stall of the Week Herbs and Spices. Picture: Dominic Gilbert - Credit: Archant

Keeping his products simple and consistent was the key to surviving 40 years, said Mr Butcher, because the customer 'knows what we are doing'.

'I can add things or delete things from time to time but in general we keep selling the same thing,' he said. 'We have got instant customer feedback which is not something the supermarkets have. In pursuit of profit they do not allow any slack. What we do is sell raw materials - the best we can. It all comes to us from London or Kent but there are local suppliers we rely on for a few things.'

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Norwich Market has stood for 1,000 years and should stay

Norwich Market has been the hub of the city for 1,000 years and should remain so, according to Mr Butcher.

'The market has been here for 1,000 years - longer than the cathedral,' he said. 'It was mentioned in the Domesday book in 1074, and was always on this site after moving from Tombland.

'Whenever the council say we are sitting on the most valuable piece of land in Norwich, I always point out the only reason it is so valuable is the activity around the market here for 1,000 years paid for everything around it.

'In other cultures, especially in Europe, people appreciate the value of markets. That is why I am always pleased about European immigration, because they know the value of a market and they shop here. There has been a fairly marked backlash against supermarket shopping as people realise they do not necessarily have their welfare at heart - not in the same way a tradesman would.'

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