Ambitious plans to develop and expand the twice weekly Barnet Market have been given the go ahead by BYM Capital, the new owners of The Spires shopping centre.
Two long-established stallholders – Tyler Bone and Andy Gardiner – are establishing a partnership to take over the management of the market and widen the range of produce and products available to customers.
Previous owners of the Spires have sub-contracted the operation of the market to agents, but the two stallholders believe they are best placed to attract new traders and widen the market’s appeal.
“Because of the Covid.19 pandemic more people are shopping locally and that’s why we think it is an ideal moment to try to rejuvenate the market and keep them shopping here in High Barnet,” said Mr Gardiner, who first started helping at the market as an eleven-year-old schoolboy.
Mr Bone, whose grandfather Albert established the family’s fruit and vegetable stall in 1959, is confident that with an imaginative approach Barnet Market could recapture the bustle of its heyday when stalls filled its former site on the St Albans Road and had a significant turnover.
“What is needed is some new thinking. A market needs to be a bit special. We could have themed events and attractions and that would help us sign up more stalls.
“Our site at the bandstand -- at the Waitrose entrance -- is already becoming the place to go, where you can eat and drink as well as shop.
“We have Yamama Falafel doing Middle Eastern fresh food and the local brewers Urban Alchemy have been laying out seating areas at weekends, so the potential is there for a much bigger market and a greater variety of food and drink.
“In the future we might even be able to expand the market to take in the landscaped grassy area on the other side of the service road. All it needs is the enthusiasm and local knowledge that has been missing in the past,” said Mr Bone.
After being suspended during lockdown, once it resumed earlier this year the market became increasingly popular having the added appeal of being an outdoor venue.
In the summer months there were often as many as ten stalls joining the two regular fruit and vegetable traders and Lenny’s meat and poultry stall.
Newcomers have included a fresh fish stall operated by Young’s Fish of Ipswich, as well as stalls selling bread, cheese, coffee, and refreshments.
Mr Gardiner said the priority was to get more of the produce stalls coming on a regular basis every Saturday and if possible, for the Wednesday market as well.
“Markets around the country are all becoming popular outlets for specialist foods and delicatessen and that’s got to be the future, as well as the staples like fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, bread and cheese and so on.”
During lockdown Mr Gardiner expanded his online fruit and vegetable delivery service – www.greengrocerschoice.co.uk -- and he is convinced its success indicates the desire of residents to shop locally.
“There might be opportunities to think in the future of a holding Sunday market. “Perhaps we could start by resurrecting something like the Saturday Teenage Market that used to be held outside The Spires in the late afternoon and early evening. Then we could offer other items such as clothing and gifts.
“All we want is a chance. Come the New Year we will be ready to give it a go. The new owners of The Spires have been very open to our ideas and would like to see if we can make it a success, and in the process, help revive and strengthen the shopping centre itself,” said Mr Gardiner.