The traders who saved the day.
By Shameem Mir
It’s there every Saturday, come rain or shine, at the Waltham Forest Community Hub, so most of you will be familiar with the E17 Village Market. But what you might not know is that it was saved from closure by a group of local traders who aim to turn it into a worker’s co-operative where a share of the takings will go to keeping it up and running.
The market had its beginnings in the grounds of Henry Maynard Primary School last year. Back then it was led by an entrepreneur from Hackney as a commercial enterprise, with most of the traders coming from outside of Walthamstow. It then moved to the Community Hub but things took an abrupt turn in early September when the market was suddenly disbanded by the original founder due to ‘a lack of footfall’. It stopped operating for a few weeks while a group of traders put their heads together to think of a way forward. This culminated in them taking over the market, getting it up and running again with the intention to make it more community focused with almost all local E17 businesses.
It’s clear that they make their products with flair and a great passion. Nick Lazarides from Cyprus Kitchen left his full- time job in the media to follow his dream of serving up fresh and authentic Cypriot food. “I wasn’t getting the interaction with people in my day job,” says Nick, “and I love face-to-face contact and chatting to my customers. Plus, I wanted to bring something new to the food scene.”
When talking to the traders you get the sense that they all have this deep passion driving them to make, bake and cook the absolute best to sell to our community. “I wanted to bring beautiful and natural patisserie to all families in Walthamstow,’ says Henrietta Inman, the pastry chef and author of Clean Cakes who is one of the traders at the market each week. “Mums are always coming back to buy cakes for their children, which is great as I love getting feedback. Being a trader is also a great way of promoting my cookery classes, which I hope to do more of in the New Year.”
Another heartfelt baker is Céline Lecoeur of Elderflower Cakes, who says, “I have always loved baking and always wanted to have my own business. Being a local trader is such a good start. The market has allowed me to test my product on the general public. What I also love is the sense of community between traders; we are like one big family that supports and encourages each other – the atmosphere is so lovely.”
For Alys Wood-Bibby from Blomst Flowers it’s been a great way of immersing herself into Village life. “As a newcomer to Walthamstow, both as a resident and trader, there was an overwhelming sense of community in terms of support and encouragement,” says Alys. “I believe the market is a great way to give back to the community as well as supporting new businesses which, like us, want to take the gamble and follow their hearts.”
Many of the traders have full-time jobs but cannot resist devoting their free time to sharing their love for what they produce. Kostas Anagnostou from the Greek Café works as a full-time chef in a local college and says, “My love of cooking came from watching my grandma in the kitchen back in our village in northern Greece and I am using those hand-me-down recipes today. All my cakes and pastries are made from scratch and what makes them stand out is my attention to detail.” And besides the savoury filo pies, Kosta has also introduced salads to his repertoire.
While many of the traders are just starting and juggling other commitments, others are more established. Take Perky Blenders, which recently won a much-coveted Time Out Love London Award.
“It was an astounding achievement for us and a real heartfelt thank you from our growing community of coffee lovers,” says Blender’s Tom Cozens. “People enjoy the fact we roast Perky Blenders beans fresh for the market.” Tom also points out that they offer free drinks with every order of fresh roasted coffee beans at the Village Market. And for those serious addicts, they even deliver free in E17.
Besides feeding and watering the local populace, the market wants to encourage growth within E17 microbusinesses and create a community among traders, as well as residents.
They especially want to reach out to other local traders and encourage new small operations. So to help build confidence, the group has introduced an ‘incubator scheme’ for local start-ups, offering a 4-week initial period and a reduced pitch fee. If this is just the opportunity you’ve been looking for, you can contact the group directly, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group sees an opportunity to make the market bigger and better so that Orford Road becomes a go-to destination, attracting visitors both locally and further afield, and increasing footfall even further so that all businesses can benefit, much like Broadway Market and Columbia Road.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of “The Village” magazine.