Page 39 - MarketTimesDecember2015
P. 39

  Market Times • December 2015
REPORT
What’s hot in Cambridge? By NICOLA GOULD
   CAN a dedicated band of street traders singlehandedly lure people to a city that has so many more feted attractions such as its ancient universities, its punts on the River Cam and its historic buildings?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes, according to the city’s street food traders who say their customers regularly tell them they have come to Cambridge solely because they had a yearning for their tasty offerings.
The university city of Cambridge has 18 street traders on 20 allocated pitches, most of them in the city centre near the market, but a smattering at the pedestrianised area near the Grafton shopping centre a little outside.
They offer locals, students and tourists an eclectic mix of tasty street food, souvenirs and bags, hats and gifts. But it is perhaps the street food that has the biggest following, attracting queues during the busy lunchtime rush.
John Fenton, who runs Cambridge Crepes with his wife Jenny, and is chairman of the Cambridge Street Traders NMTF branch, believes street traders are the unsung heroes of town and city centres up and down the country.
John said: “We bring something different and independent to town centres which so often have the same national and international brands of shops and restaurants.
“We love the market, of course, and what we offer is complementary. It also creates a vibrancy and buzz which brings something special to the city centre.”
John fell in love with street food, and crepes in particular, when he was working in finance and recruitment and visited a festival in 2001 where he saw a crepes stall serving customers.
“I just loved the product and there was such a great atmosphere and a look of pleasure and anticipation on people’s faces in the queue,” he said.
It was eight years before a pitch became available in his home city of Cambridge, but he and Jenny haven’t looked back.
“It is hard work and long hours, but it is such a pleasure serving a product people really enjoy and getting to know our customers,” he said.
John Fenton and his wife Jenny have run Cambridge Crepes as a labour of love since 2009
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Setting up wasn’t cheap, he says. The catering trailer was a big expense, and John pays just under £3,000 a year in rent.
The council is strict on the smart appearance of its street stalls, trailers and trams, which possibly dates back to 1988 when the council introduced the consent scheme, which placed traders on allocated pitches to get rid of a few fly pitchers selling low quality goods.
But the smart branding is an investment that has paid off for the busy street food traders of Cambridge, and John is no exception.
“When we started off, we gave a list of ingredients we could
combine in our sweet and savoury crepes,” Jenny said. “But customers, particularly tourists, didn’t want to choose, so we switched to a wide range of set choices and our takings went up 50 per cent overnight,” she added.
The couple have built up a loyal following for their crepes, which include a buckwheat crepe for people with mild gluten allergies.
And they have branched out into providing catering services at events including the set of a TV show in London starring Liz Hurley and Joan Collins and an endurance race staged at Newmarket by the son of Sheik Mohammed, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
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