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Trading Places

Helen Clifton chats to traders and staff about the future of Manchester city centre's oldest market

Published on February 2nd 2010.

Trading Places

Church Street Market is dead – long live Church Street Market.

The ramshackle last remains of the original barrow boys of central Manchester have been flattened. But traders are soon to be rehoused in shiny, new purpose-built market stalls, more suited to the twenty-first century.

"We wanted to bring quality units to the area, rather than the shanty town which it was," Dale says. "They will actually be a good size and pre-built, rather than people just adding bits when they want to.”

Brothers Tony and Mark McCall run the last of the Church Street fruit and vegetable stalls. Their family has been in market trading for five generations, and their stalls have been based on the road for the past 27 years.

"We started off with our grandmother and grandfather when they were selling fruit and veg on Back Piccadilly," Tony explains. "There were 22 barrows here on Church Street, and we are the last of them. We were on the opposite side of the road for 17 years, and moved to the present site 10 years ago."

Tony has no time for nostalgia. He says the changes are good, enabling the market to keep up with competition from the supermarkets springing up across the city centre.

"There is going to be more produce and more people. There is going to be more variety," he says. "It is going to be a proper open market.

"They didn't want open stalls in the city centre 10 years ago. It wasn't in keeping with new development. But now you can see markets throughout the city centre – in Tib Street, in Piccadilly.

"The Northern Quarter was meant to exist for small, independent businesses, not Tesco and Co-op. But they are here now, and we want to be able to stay in competition with them."

Tony adds that market shopping has become an attractive proposition for a city centre population switched on to the benefits of fresh food.

"We are cheaper and we sell many varieties for different nationalities, from African to Chinese produce. The people who use markets return to markets. They like to be able to buy small amounts, rather than the big bags. People are also getting into the more traditional fruit and vegetables, like potatoes, onions and carrots. Rather than ready-made food, they are getting back to buying fresh."

The new Church Street Market will consist of seven open units, with a total of three additional businesses to open up, selling pet food, DVDs and computer games, and hot soup and farm produce.

Sadly, the iconic yellow and red fronted record shop has shut, with the owner using the new development as an opportunity to retire. Thankfully, his hand-painted signs have not disappeared completely.

"Since we closed the site, a couple of people have asked for the signs. They have actually taken them and put them in a pub in Manchester. So his legacy lives on without him," explains Dale Maybury, assistant manager at the Arndale and Church Street Markets.

"Because of the money that has been spent on the city centre and on retail outlets, we started to look at Church Street and how we could improve it. As the gateway to the Northern Quarter, it didn't look particularly nice, so it needed something doing to it."

The multi-thousand pound project, which saw the demolition of the old stalls at the beginning of January, is due to be completed by the end of March.

"We wanted to bring quality units to the area, rather than the shanty town which it was," Dale says. "They will actually be a good size and pre-built, rather than people just adding bits when they want to.

"We've had people asking what is going to be there in its place, and we've also had people saying 'I can't believe they've taken the market away!' But the fruit and veg and the hat, gloves and scarf stalls are still just down the road. The book trader is taking time off to go and buy a bigger selection."

Dale says supermarkets aren't all bad news for the traders, and insists Church Street Market is sturdy enough to compete against its corporate neighbours.

"They have actually seen their business increase," he says. "Their prices are much cheaper – about half of what people pay in Tesco and the Co-op. Shoppers get their essentials at the supermarket, and then go to Tony and Mark to get their fruit and vegetables.

"The traders are positive about the changes. We are not trying to take the old market away – we are making it better and bringing more services to the area."

For more information on Manchester Markets visit www.manchestermarkets.com.

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

BookwormFebruary 3rd 2010.

I wish we could have a classic secondhand book market as we did down Shude Hill and Withy Grove in them there old days. That would be a tourist attraction.

CASFebruary 3rd 2010.

Bookworm, go for it! I'm sure the council would be up for that and sounds like your dream job so exit the rat race and live your dream.

TreeloverFebruary 3rd 2010.

The bookmarket should be down in Castlefield -give it some usage

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2010.

'The multi-thousand pound project...'? Surely if you think it relevant to report the cost you can be a little more precise than that?

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2010.

The management of Church Street open air market and indeed Piccadilly Farmers Market is a disaster. Church Street used to extend all the way from High Street to Tib Street. but apart from Tony and Mark there will be nothing left. The many of the 'farmers' have given up and been replaced with trinket stalls which might suit ManCon's readers If you want to see good metropolitan go to Leeds or Liverpool, or even Bolton.

Trader SamFebruary 7th 2010.

The markets in Manchester are all specialist and this recognises the fact that Manchester has a different demographic, it is bigger, than the market towns you mention. The suburbs are effectively further out. It hardly needs a great city centre market...and Liverpool isn't very good, although Leeds's market is wonderful.

Christine PotterFebruary 16th 2010.

Church Street fruit markets were brilliant but times change and people move on. Food in Arndale market is really great but still room for stalls etc on Church Street.

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