Friday, 13 May 2011

Borough's Loss is Bermondsey's Gain

The simmering rows between core traders and Borough Market management have finally reached a climax with 8 long-standing businesses being evicted last week.  Their crime seems to have been to open their nearby storage/maturing spaces for a few hours on Saturdays whilst continuing to support Borough.   The buzz about the activity half a mile up the road in Bermondsey seems to have become too loud for comfort.  Apparently, Borough Market management viewed their actions as competition rather than as a complementary food venue which brought in more customers to the area.   Is this a result of big business management being brought to what is supposed to be a charity serving the local community?

It could be hard on the remaining good traders at Borough and it will be interesting to see how the market management can find the quality traders to fill the shoes of those they have ejected.  Even if the traders are out there, the Market management will need a complete re-think of how they attract them.  Surely this recent ruthless action, and the local reaction to it, will focus a few minds at last.

Giving the traders only one week’s notice seems a pretty shabby way to treat people who have worked hard for many years to grow the Market.   Many of the businesses were landmarks at Borough and beacons of good food.  There is much discussion (and not a little abuse) on the”london-se1” website about the disastrous results of the attempts to micro-manage the traders – talk of preventing them from growing their businesses at the Market, and from trading elsewhere.  However, there is a case for traders to "stick to their knitting" as excessive diversification can confuse the customer and, in a small business, dilute standards. Local shoppers are in despair at how a once fantastic wholesale and retail market has, for them, descended into a tourist area best avoided. 

Entering the Green and Jubilee Markets today was a sorry sight.  No Comte from the Borough Cheese Company, no Ham and Cheese Company Parmesan, no Kaise Swiss cheese, nor French cheeses from Mons.  Even Kappacasein with their renowned Toasted Cheese Sandwiches and Raclette have been given their marching orders.  Ironically, these are businesses which have maintained their focus.  It was impeccable timing when, only yesterday, Kappacasein was highlighted as a Borough Market trader in The Times column 'The Table'. 

Happily, Bill Oglethorpe at Kappacasein has been able to move fast and normal service will resume from this Saturday 9-2pm at his new railway arch unit– a trailblazing extension to my Bermondsey Trail. It’s just a little farther up the London Bridge to Dover line from the arches housing the other “miscreants”.  Let’s show the Bermondsey traders our support, but still buy selectively at Borough.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2011 - Happily now that the management of Borough market has changed, Kappacasein and The Borough Cheese Company have returned to stalls at Borough Market (still open at their Bermondsey Trail arches on Saturdays).

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