The last fifty years have seen major changes in the way that people buy their food. Fifty years ago most people bought their food from markets or specialist food shops, such as greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers. We didn’t realise it then, but these shops were the Hub of our community.
When I was young, my hometown of Padstow (which then had a population of around 2000 people) had all manner of independent traders; and even in such a small town we had the choice of 3 Greengrocers all in close proximity to each other, all earning a living and Coexisting together.
While walking around the town I have noticed that all the little independent traders have been taken over by large national companies.
My latest project “the shops of Padstow” will document all the shops in the town. The first sets of images are of the Greengrocers, I have photographed where those Fruit/Veg shops used to be. We had Biddicks, Oliveys and Knights, all which are now tourist trinket shops.
I remember my mum would shop in all three; their produce was always fresh, probably picked earlier that day. It wasn’t in plastic wrappers or nitrogen filled bags or on shiny black synthetic trays, but you could get exactly the right amount you needed. It doesn’t matter to me if my bananas bend the wrong way or my cucumbers aren’t straight or the tomatoes aren’t round and I didn’t care if they came with dirt/earth on them, they got washed.
I know now that you can get runner beans from Kenya in February and strawberries from Zimbabwe in December but I would much rather have mine from Cornwall in August as they taste better.
My Mum would spend a little time in each shop talking to the shopkeepers, catching up on all the local news, my Dad called it gossiping but now I realise that it was just a great shopping experience.
Then after she had finished shopping for her daily produce, she and all the other locals ladies would talk about the day’s news, usually over a cup of coffee in Stephens Café. (a bit like face book) but with exercise.
The High Street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment; so it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive.