Ich Bin: Sally Keable, greengrocer, the Fruit Bowl

The Fruit Bowl has been an institution outside Kentish Town tube station for 15 years. With yesterday’s news that it can stay put as the new Wahaca opens next April, meet a local hero – who lives south of the river

‘If you can’t reach just ask me, don’t pull down the whole display of spinach all over the floor.’ Photo: Stephen Emms

You’ve fought for the survival of the Fruit Bowl in the last few weeks. You must now be very relieved.
Oh yes. We had a positive meeting yesterday at TfL’s headquarters. Nothing’s in writing yet, but they told us verbally we can stay. So it should be the best of both worlds, with Wahaca upstairs and us downstairs. I just wanted to thank readers for their support as we had over 1100 signatures in the petition.

Will there be any changes to your stall?
It will be a little smaller, but we’re speaking to TFL to see if we can open the storage space up a bit.

How long have you worked here?
Ten years. Before that I was in law, in an office in what is now Costa Coffee on Kentish Town Road.

Why did you quit?
So many regulations and so much form-filling. You don’t actually have any time to do your job. So I wrapped the whole thing up after being there 15 years.

Where do you live?
Not round here! Near Wimbledon. But I’ve always worked in north London. It was King’s Cross before Kentish Town.

How did you start as a greengrocer?
I used to get off the tube and walk past the owner, Bajram Zeqiri, every day. Did you know he started off under the canopy with just a stall? Anyway, as I was winding my company down, and had a bit more time, I would sometimes help out, taking some money for these bananas, and so on. It started from there. I never intended to make a career from it – but that was how it turned out.

So, now that everything has been resolved, what do you enjoy most about the stall?
Fresh air, because where I was before had no windows so I never knew what the day was like, and by the time I did, it was evening. And the lack of responsibility too. If I overcharge you for the parsnips it’s not like I’ll get banged up for 10 years, is it?

What are the customers like?
I know quite a lot of them, eighty per cent I’d say. Not by name but facially as it’s the same people every day. Most are friendly and nice but some are real pains. They treat it like it’s their own stall and start breaking the bunches up: you don’t go into Sainsbury’s opposite and do that, or peel off a grape without saying “Can I taste it?” If they ask it’s fine, but not when you see them putting the third one in their mouth. They all taste the same! And with the one-pound bowls it’s as it comes. You don’t find the five best pieces by turning them upside down and picking them out.

How do people take to being told off?
Most don’t take it in good spirit. They say, “I’m a customer, I come here all the time”. Well, it doesn’t entitle you to start throwing the fruit around. Sometimes you tell people not to come back.

What are perennial best sellers?
Bananas, bananas and more bananas – we can sell four boxes. There are 20 kilos in a box, so 80 kilos in a day. I can sell even more when I put them in a bowl. Next up? Tomatoes, potatoes, and mushrooms.

Any tips to get the best service?
Be polite. Ask for help. If you can’t reach just ask me, don’t pull down the whole display of spinach all over the floor. And when we have the bowls of slightly damaged veg they’re good value, just cut out the bits that might be past their best.

Favourite sound?
The rare silence when you can actually hear what customers are saying. Certainly not the constant ambulances, police cars and buses on Kentish Town Road. I’m not sure I’m not going deaf.

Where do you hang out?
Tolli, cause it’s quickest. Assembly House for a glass of rosé. E.Mono and Danny’s Fish Bar, always takeaway.

Finally, the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Trust no-one. You let yourself down often enough so don’t expect somebody else to do any better.

This is box title
Thanks to everyone who joined the petition for the Fruit Bowl to stay. Read more about Sally and Wahaca here . Click here for a video peek inside the building that will be the new Wahaca, which is set to open in April.

  • Show Comments

  • Dan

    ‘If I overcharge you for the parsnips it’s not like I’ll get banged up for 10 years, is it?’

    I swear I’m the only person who isn’t a fan of this place. You can never read the prices of anything and when you come to pay they literally pluck a number out of the air and its always more than you expect.

    Well done for staying open.

    • Phoebe

      Haha! Funny you highlight overcharging as that is the exact reason I stopped using the Fruit Bowl. Fair enough the occasional rounding up but I found shopping there to be so expensive for not necessarily great quality. Was charged about £4.50 last time I went for some grapes and about 3 parsnips… always feel like they pick a price out of the air. Consistently better prices and friendlier service at the stall next to Co-op. Fair play for managing to get a new lease though.

  • Jessica

    I also can’t understand the popularity of this stall. The quality of the fruit and veg and prices can be good, but the owner is one of the most misanthropic people I have ever met. This article gives a good insight into why – but doesn’t make me want to visit the stall – except when the much more friendly and relaxed stall by the co-op doesn’t have something I need.

  • Pat K

    Wow, she sounds lovely!

  • Chris

    I have to say I’m a bit disappointed the stall is remaining to block access to the tube especially when KT is well served for fresh and cheap food

  • Anne

    The lovely fruit stall by co-op is always friendly and helpful! I haven’t had any trouble with getting the fruit and veg I needed.