It’s a bustling Saturday afternoon on Preston Market, the sun is out and plenty of people are enjoying the warmer weather.
The Market Hall is busy with shoppers milling around, meeting friends in the various cafes and eateries, shopping at the stalls on the outdoor market, and picking up gifts and treats at the Box Market.
Love Your Local Market, a national campaign to support markets and opportunities to trade, started yesterday and runs until 5 June, so we thought we’d run a Preston Market mini-series to discover what makes our marketplace so special.
Elaine and Mick Duxbury have travelled over to Preston from Accrington with their son. As he takes his driving theory test, they’re spending some time at Preston Market.
“We’ve had a good look around all the stalls,” said Elaine, drinking a coffee with her husband in Aunty Dolly’s Cafe. They’ve both enjoyed their trip to Preston and to the market.
“There’s no market in Accrington,” said Mick. “Just a few pound shops, it’s disheartening. There are some good cafes here, people are always nice and it’s a pleasant outing.”
Established in 1998, Aunty Dolly’s is popular with groups of friends and families meeting up for the day. Serving all-day breakfasts, cakes, coffees, and sandwiches and with a large seating area, it’s just one of many cafes in the Market Hall.
Across from Aunty Dolly’s is Cha Cha’s. The stall has recently expanded and now offers a seated area, serving Indian street food including freshly made curries, vegetarian and vegan options, onion bhajis, shawarma wraps, and their large samosas.
In the far corner of the Market Hall, Cherry Pie Coffee and Co is busy with a flurry of customers taking a break from their shopping to stop and watch the world go by. The coffee shop is known for its delicious, large cream cakes and coffee, as well as serving cold and toasted sandwiches, jacket potatoes, chips, cooked breakfasts, and for those who fancy a glass of wine in the sunshine.
A recently opened eatery is attracting new customers to the market. Tipsy Chef serves high-quality street food and has already garnered rave reviews on social media. Experienced chef and owner, Jay Oates, buys all the produce he uses from Preston Market, varying his menu with weekly specials to keep customers coming back.
Holly Milroy and her boyfriend John Alty are waiting for their order. John regularly shops at Redman’s and Livesey’s butchers but it’s their first time visiting Tipsy Chef.
“We heard about it through Preston Takeout Reviews on Facebook and saw it on Instagram,” said Holly. “It looked good so we thought we’d try it.”
“I’ve ordered the Korean Chicken Boa Bun and Fat Panda Fries and Holly’s ordered the Healthyish Fries,” said John. Their verdict afterwards – ‘delicious’.
Opposite Tipsy Chef, Redman’s is doing a roaring trade. Established in 1945, the family business serves cooked breakfasts, bacon barms, cooked chicken, ham, pies, as well as specially made sandwiches, amongst other things. Charlie Cardwell is based on the Redman’s stall, selling sausages and bacon.
“People travel for miles around for Charlie’s sausages,” said Sandra Steele, owner of Redman’s.
Opposite Redman’s, Hakuna Mata sweet stall sells a huge variety of sweets, including some old favourites like cream soda and a variety of American sweets. It also sells chocolate and 22 different flavours of ice cream as well as homemade brownies and fudge.
Ella, a busy mum of two young children, is taking a break by the Wallace and Gromit bench as her children enjoy an ice cream.
“When we come to the city centre, we like to buy ice cream from the sweet stall. The children like the ice cream they sell. The strawberry sorbet and bubblegum flavours are their favourites.”
Mark Williams has over half a decade’s experience working as a fishmonger. All of his produce is sourced locally and the breadth and depth of his knowledge on seafood and fresh fish is vast. He’s happy to answer any questions if you need advice. It’s where Julia McManus likes to buy salmon, prawns and cockles from, Julia has been shopping on the market for years.
Prior to her shopping on the market, her late husband used to do the shopping in the old indoor market but Julia prefers the new market hall.
“I think the new market is much more accessible for someone like me with mobility problems,” she said.
“I enjoy feasting. I love the fresh bananas from Super Veg, his stall is much better now he’s rearranged it. I love the hotpots from Redman’s. Sometimes I buy a cream cake from Cherry Pie to take home, they’re so big I have half one day and the other half the next. I try to give each stall custom.”
At the back of the Market Hall is Super Veg. The stall looks like any other fruit and veg stall but if you look closer you will discover it sells a wide variety of spices, dried fruit and nuts, herbs, dried pulses and beans, as well as Caribbean fruit and vegetables.
Brian Crombleholme pops into the market every week, taking the bus into town, to buy his essentials. Super Veg is just one of the stalls he likes visiting. He also stops by at Pickles of Preston, Livesey’s and Arthur Strands before going to enjoy a pint. Brian enjoys chatting to the stallholders, who know him by name, and the quality of the produce.
Jo Cornall also enjoys shopping in the Market Hall. “I love the big samosas from Cha Cha’s! I also buy local potatoes, local mushrooms, and whatever else looks good from Fresh and Fruity. I use Pickles cheese stall the most; the garlic Lancashire cheese is my favourite, it makes the best cheese on toast ever and the Lancashire wildflower honey from the cheese stall is beautiful too.”
Barry Dawson now runs Fresh and Fruity. His wife’s family owns Lodge Farm in Hesketh Bank, specialising and supplying the stall with brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflowers, and cabbages. There are nine different types of cabbage, he explains. Barry’s knowledge of fruit and vegetables is immense, like all the other market traders we met, he is passionate about the produce he sells.
Read more: Broadgate entrepreneur’s veg box scheme bringing affordable organic and locally produced food to Preston
“This is locally grown fresh bunched radish and salad cress,” he said. “These new-season local Rufford potatoes were dug up from the ground this morning. The spuds should be cheaper than the ones you buy in the supermarket as they’re travelling fewer miles. As the seasons change the produce we stock changes. We don’t sell rubbish.”
“The food lasts longer too,” said Jo, shopping for fruit and vegetables.
Nik Prescott, the chef from The Larder, shops at Fresh and Fruity as do other chefs from local restaurants. Barry tells us about Vinro, a new restaurant in Penwortham, that they’ll be supplying fresh produce to. In the next few weeks, Fresh and Fruity will have deliveries of local grown lettuce, beans, strawberries, coriander and spinach.
Nikki Keefe, who runs Pickles of Preston, has an abundance of experience working on market stalls. She started working on her mum’s market stall in Leigh when she was 13. Pickles of Preston cheese stall was established in 1972. When the owner was retiring in 2011, Nikki bought the business. Pickles sells a wide range of cheeses from around the country and overseas from its four and a half metre cheese counter, but Nikki is keen to support local businesses too.
“I’m passionate about supporting local farms. 80 per cent of the cheese I stock is from local farms and people love it; our customers love local cheese.
“Customers can come and buy a small amount of cheese for a recipe; for example, a lady came today and bought 50 grams of Gruyere. You can’t buy that in many supermarkets, a lot of food goes to waste, and buying just what you need from a market stops that food waste.”
People also shop at Pickles for eggs, yogurts, local honey, and sourdough bread. Sitting atop the counter are goose eggs as large as a child’s hand, as well as graze boards that Nikki and her team have specially prepared for local businesses. Pickles supplies graze boards to Bar Pintxos and Detroit, as well as cheese to NIKO. For Valentine’s Day, Pickles collaborated with Plau on Friargate.
“In lockdown, we were busier than ever,” said Nikki. “People had more time to come in and shop local from small businesses. People were buying the graze boards to have at home as they couldn’t eat out and Saturdays are still very busy as those people have continued to shop with us.”
Nikki has a number of followers on social media, from across the UK and further afield, who all wish that they could pop to Pickles on a Saturday afternoon and Nikki is keen to encourage more people from the local area to shop at Preston Market.
All the traders we meet are passionate about the produce and products they sell. All are keen to encourage people to shop local and give them a try if they haven’t already.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be chatting to a trader who is doing his best to combat online negativity about Preston Market as well as meeting more of the traders and shoppers in the Market Hall, Box Market, and the outdoor market, to discover what they enjoy about Preston Market and to find out about the challenges.
Preston Market Hall is open from Monday to Saturday, 8am to 5pm. Individual trader times may vary. Contact the individual traders on the Box Market for their opening hours. Preston’s outdoor market is open from 8am to 3pm. The second-hand market runs on Tuesdays 8am to 3pm.