Because simple market stalls have hinted towards the best way to shop during the Covid era
Tom Young’s bread stall has traded on Queen’s Crescent Market twice a week, as usual, throughout the lockdown. He’s there because he’s convinced that the historic market can be turned around, after years of neglect. Perhaps the current crisis may prove to be the turning point he’s long been hoping for.
How has COVID affected your business?
“Living right here and trading virtually on my doorstep, very little actually changed. Mine is one of those businesses that are so basic and uncomplicated that I didn’t suffer with supply or delivery problems. I’m totally reliant on my regulars anyway. They found themselves fielding inquiries from neighbours about availability of local goods, so my name kept coming up. I’ve been busier than ever.”
What’s your current offering?
“I have some lovely English cheeses, Italian olive oil and a range of pastries and cakes, as well as all the regular breads. My main source of work is architecture, which completely evaporated overnight, so although this makes very modest amounts, it’s certainly better than zero.”
What have been your greatest concerns?
“I worry about getting ill, which – touch wood – hasn’t happened so far. When you trade on Queen’s Crescent you are in a state of near permanent anxiety anyway, so it’s been manageable.”
What’s made you feel optimistic?
“Local walks have become popular during lockdown, which has lead more people to discover their way to the market for the first time. People who normally go away at the weekends haven’t been able to, either. The challenge is getting from where we are now, which is a very broken market, to one that’s self-sustaining. I don’t want to see a 150-year-old market completely die, and I’m absolutely certain there are loads more people in the neighbourhood who would come and buy things here.”
Who would you like to collaborate with?
“The powers that be need to build a narrative about the importance of neighbourhood. The Council have a £1.1m pot earmarked for public realm development here, but it’s not yet backed up by a business plan for the market. We need storage facilities with planning permission. I have a plan to make it happen, and the dream is one day to have our own bakery here, too.”
Tom’s dense, springy sourdoughs are arguably London’s best; a luxury essential, especially appreciated during these testing times. Find him on Queen’s Crescent Thursdays and Saturdays (the two market days). Make sure you chat to him about invigorating Camden’s street markets in response to, and beyond, the Covid crisis.
| QC Bread on Facebook |
The COVID-19 health crisis has burned our economic and cultural landscape much like a forest fire. But across a charred, razed environment, strong green shoots inevitably emerge.
CAMDENIST is a new collaborative local media platform, currently in beta mode and launching soon. Born from the smoldering ashes of this unprecedented era, it will provide fertile support for the regeneration of our communities, businesses and cultural spaces in the times ahead.
Worth following, too.