Page 18 - MarketTimesAugust2016
P. 18

the front, with most of the back area empty. The roof leaked. Some of the market offer was not of the highest quality. Several stalls hardly seemed to open and there was a slightly intimidating atmosphere that put off a lot of punters.
“The impression you got was just grey shutters and a dark, unloved market,” he said.
Roi, who took over as manager in August 2010, says he hasn’t thrown anyone off the market, but he had to take action against those traders who weren’t opening and were behind with their rent.
The market dates from 1930 and had been owned and run by the Boddington family for all those years.
Once a thriving market, the family owners became less hands-on in recent years, but butcher Daniel Stannard, whose father, Rodney, started the family business in 1966, feels the rot set in 10 to 12 years ago because of parking problems.
Daniel started helping on the stall 36 years ago as a 12-year-old Saturday boy and remembers good trading in the 1980s and 1990s.
“This is a very working-class area and the market catered for that demographic,” he said. “People used to be able to park nearby and nip in to do their shopping. But when parking charges were introduced things changed for the worse,” he said.
Since the new operators took over new businesses have been enticed into newly fitted-
out shops in the back area, which means that all 63 units are taken and there is a waiting list of 100 or more.
Yet Daniel is still not 100 per cent convinced by the new direction. “We have a lot of loyal customers after so many years,” he said. “But we used to employ 15 staff when we were at our busiest and now it is just three. I’m worried that there might not yet be enough of the new type of customer the market is attracting.”
Roi has no such doubts. His main concern is ensuring that the market retains its traditional character, and he is encouraging the long- standing traders to improve their displays and up their game as more families and well-heeled shoppers are attracted into Tooting market.
The change in fortunes has been achieved through investment and strategic planning by Roi, who eats, sleeps and breathes markets.
The owners have invested more than £100,000 in improvements including roof repairs, fitting out shops in the unused back area, free wi-fi and installing a heating system.
Sunday opening was an early innovation.
Roi said: “There was an 18 months to two years transition period before traders got to trust us and realised we knew what we were doing.”
He offered the back area free to artists, which helped to attract in the type of tenants the market needed. Those potential tenants were offered incentives including £7,000 to £8,000 spent on fitting out units for them and five weeks free rent.
A quirky gourmet burger operation with outlets in trendy parts of London took the bait, and soon a trickle of interest from top quality eateries snowballed.
They include Franco Manca, a pizza operation that started in Brixton and is also in the Westfield Centre; Brickwood Coffee and Bread, a gin distillery and shop; and Unwined, a former pop-up wine business run by Kiki Evans.
Kiki said: “We were a pop-up operation all over South West London, then we saw this opportunity which suited us as it is in a quirky location back from the High Street.”
Tooting Market introduced evening openings last year, and that suits businesses like Unwined which invites “pop-up chefs” to cook for them for six weeks at a time.
They put on wine tastings at 2 pm and 7.15 pm on Wednesdays, the earlier of which is proving popular with young mums who meet up with their babies in pushchairs.
It’s all a far cry from the old market days.
Roi says that once word got around that the market was on the up he was inundated with enquiries from traders.
Not all meet the criteria and he is also careful about the balance between food and drink and traditional market lines.
The market is now home to a diverse mix including hairdressers, a travel agent, a “secret” pub and an art gallery come art school.
Gemma Lloyd and her art school friend Claire Rudkin are behind the art business, called Love Art.
Roi Mengelgrein is the man behind the transformation at Tooting Market
Daniel Stannard is part of the old school at Tooting Market where he started on his father's butchers stall as a Saturday boy, aged 12
  Kiki Evans runs Unwined with a business partner, selling and serving wine and food created by “pop-up chefs” who spend six weeks at Unwined before moving on. Customers are invited to use the old portable typewriter to leave their comments.

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