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.
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.