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Mick Pryke, greengrocer on Hildreth Street
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a greengrocer

Written by
Danielle Goldstein
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…according to Mick Pryke, 63.

Market stalls are still a viable earner

‘I was ten when I started in Hildreth Street market. I worked for my old governor, God rest his soul. He died when I was about 15 and I’ve been down here ever since. But I’ve had to diversify – it’s that or go under.  In April/May time, when all the English produce is out, I easily have over a hundred different items on the stall.’

Balham has changed for the better

‘Properties have always been expensive here, but in the ’70s there was no way you’d walk out of Balham station after 10pm on your own. Now it’s different. If you go there on a Friday or Saturday night it’s like the West End – it’s absolutely buzzing.’

It’s also supermarket-proof

‘We ain’t really got big stores here. We’ve got a Sainsbury’s and a Waitrose, but they won’t do away with market traders because of the community spirit. I know people and they know me: we’re like friends. I don’t just go, “That’s £3.50, thank you” – we have a conversation. You don’t get that in supermarkets.’

Stallholders do some weird things to drum up business

‘Percy Taylor, a guy who had a fruit stall down the other end from me, had no trade one winter. He picked up an old birdcage off the floor, held it up in the air and started calling this non-existent budgie. All these people stopped and stared, and he put the birdcage down and started serving them. You do what you have to do!’

Asparagus costs the same now as it did in the ’60s… sort of

‘A bunch of asparagus at the moment is about £3.50. Well, 30 years ago it was still £3.50 – but that was an awful lot of money then. I was only on £4.50 a week when I started. I got married on that and all!’

Now find out the things you only know if you’re a model scout.

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