“THRIVING is not the right word but it’s existing.”
William Rouse, market manager for the past eight years, is nothing but honest about the state of Rugby’s market as we approach the end of another tough year on the high street.
He adds: “You will find most of the markets across the country are in a similar position since the recession. We’ve lost a few stalls and gained a few.”
Rugby market, which has been a tradition in the town for decades, is held on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, while the last Thursday of the month is the farmers’ market.
The Market Place has room for up to 40 stalls, which trade from around 8.30am to 9am in the morning until around 4pm throughout the year come rain or shine.
William said: “The market used to be in Gas Street up until ten years ago but it was dying so we moved to Market Place. There will come a day when North Street is pedestrianised. That will be a good chance for us to spread into North Street - but not all of it.”
After spending a few hours with William, it seems there’s more to running the market than meets the eye and that despite the recession it is still doing well for many on the good days.
William said: “We have a greater variety of traders now and we have our long-serving traders who have been with us years and are still here. They might not be doing as well as they did but they are making it work. It’s hard work for them. There may be days when they don’t make anything.”
According to William, there are three different kinds of traders on the market.
He said: “There’s those that will try hard and not sell. There’s some making it work and only just making it work - they will get through the recession. Then there’s a few that are making a reasonable living out of it.”
Monday is the quietest day on the market, according to William, while Friday is always the busiest day with 100 per cent of the stalls filled. Saturdays are near to capacity but the number fluctuates depending on the number of casual traders interesting in setting up a stall.
William said: “We don’t duplicate stalls, apart from the fruit and veg, so traders don’t have to compete – you can do that on a small market. We let casual traders in if they have a good product. Then we might not see them again for a few weeks. A lot start as casual traders and then become regulars.”
I walk around Rugby town centre many times a week and always know what stalls should be where - as many others will agree I’m sure - but I’ve never given it any more thought than that.
William, who is well known by all of the traders, explains: “Traders like to have the same position because people know exactly where they are going then. It’s like a shop. In the older days people would fight for a pitch.”
As we settle into winter Williams explains that he hates cancelling the market and will only do so if it’s too dangerous to trade. Weather conditions such as high winds and snow can put the market in jeopardy.
But as we shiver doing interviews and photographs, the hardy traders are not put off by the weather and always greet you with a smile under the right and white stiped pitches - the colour scheme for Rugby’s market.
And it seems they all unite when asked what they like about Rugby: the people.
Ford Taylor, who runs the bakery stall, said: “I love the people. The people here are great.”
Rabi Dangol, who sells handmade clothes and accessories from Nepal, added: “It’s a nice town with nice people in it.”
Paul Abbott, who runs a fruit and veg stall, said: “We come from Leicester which is a much harder place to have a market stall because there’s huge competition. There’s less competition here. We all get along and work together.”
If you’re looking for something a little more unusual then Flavours stall sells a variety of tasty pies and puddings fresh from the bakery, including squirrel pie and crow pie.
Darren Beumont from Flavours said: “I’ve never know people as nice as they are in Rugby,”
In November last year one of the town centre’s best-known faces said goodbye to the market after 36 years.
Frank Bochniak, who owned and ran the bags, luggage and leather stall at Rugby’s market, paid tribute to the ‘nice’ people of Rugby as he served his last customers.
The stall was taken on under new management, run by Nile Lovett, who said: “I enjoy rugby and the market is good. On the whole the customers are all very friendly. Frank built up good relationship with customers has have passed that on to me. I think they are fairly happy with the continues service.”
William, who says he runs the market like a community, believes that there are many reasons why people should shop at Rugby market.
He said: “The recession hasn’t helped and people’s shopping habits have changed over the years with the internet. But there is good quality stuff at a good price. The fruit and veg is as good as any of the big shops. The stall holders and friendly and helpful. It’s good. There’s no imitations or anything like that on the market. The market will survive.”
So when you’re Christmas shopping this year don’t forget about Rugby market. You never know what you may stumble across and help our town centre survive at the same time.