Rain or shine, Billy’s trading on the market

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RAIN or shine Billy Grimwood has been standing behind a stall at Bury St Edmunds market every Saturday for 32 years.

He started helping out on his uncle’s fruit and vegetable stall at the age of 12 before getting his own pitch after leaving school at 16, since when he has been at the market twice a week on a Wednesday and Saturday.

Billy said: “I like the rapport with the public. I have a lot of regular customers that I see week in, week out, so you get to know them and what they want to buy.

“It’s a good life working out in the open, you do put up with the rain and cold in the winter but in the summer time you stand out in shorts and a T-shirt.”

Billy says it takes a lot of time and commitment to be a market trader, describing it as a six-day-a-week job that often involves 14-hour days.

“I’m always very busy, I’m always collecting stock or working, but at the end of the day you’ve got to pick up the produce and get it on the stall,” he said.

“I do two markets a week and I have to have the produce fresh, so I have to pick it up fresh.”

Trying to source fresh seasonal produce is often difficult and at the moment volatile weather conditions have led to a lot of summer produce being two weeks behind schedule.

Billy said: “This time of year we specialise in soft fruit and have strawberries and raspberries from Cambridge, cucumbers from Newmarket and asparagus from Thetford.”

“The customers get to know you and know that they can ask if the produce is local and you can will tell them where it came from and what’s in season at that time of year.”

Billy describes the weather as being more of a threat to his stall than the supermarkets or the recession. However, he says maintaining good relationships with suppliers allows him to combat this.

He said: “If I have a supplier who knows what I want he will ring me up and say this is coming into season now – do you want some?”

The shape and size of the market has changed dramatically in the 32 years Billy has been trading.

He said: “It has changed greatly – there used to be about 12 fruit and vegetable stalls before the supermarkets moved in – but you will always have people who come to markets because they draw people in.

“It’s always a good thing to come to the market, you get so many different products that you would not find in the shops.”

Billy sees the fruit and vegetable stalls as the nucleus of the market, however he is not optimistic about their future.

He said: “My son helps me out after school and on a Saturday but I do not think the future is there – it’s too hard and it’s long hours and young people are used to an easy life.”