I got a call last week from Lance who owns the Wheatsheaf pub in Fulham. He explained that he was holding the second “Local Treasures” market in his pub on 13 February and would I like to come along and bring some virtuous bread.
Lance explained that there were two reasons behind his decision to have a go at opening the pub earlier on a Sunday, serving breakfast and coffee/tea and holding a market in which all the stall holders are local artists and business people. The first reason is to build a stronger community in Parson’s Green (London) where the pub is. This is a very mixed area with plenty of huge houses and some big council estates. There are local traders on that part of Fulham Road but, like most high streets in the country, shops are closing and the only place to get a cup of coffee on a Sunday are the global chains offering the same run of the mill coffee and cakes that you can find everywhere. Plus, because there is nowhere else to go, they are full to overflowing – hardly a relaxed atmosphere to have a quiet Sunday breakfast. Turning the pub into a market not only gives local people somewhere to go and have a sociable breakfast of a Sunday, it also gives them a chance to meet local artists and crafts people, maybe buy a beautiful bauble, painting, article of clothing or have a massage. It also gives the local artists and crafts people somewhere to display their wares virtually rent free, and gives them an opportunity to come to notice. After the first market, a local painter was asked to display his painting at the local gallery because the gallery owner saw the paintings on the wall of the pub at the market! All Lance asks is that stall holders give a donation to the charity that is present on the day.
The second reason for holding the Sunday market is because takings are down. Cold weather, changing drinking habits and the recession mean that people are not spending as much as they used to in the pub. Holding a market to get an altogether different crowd of people in on a Sunday is a way of attracting a totally different group of customers and of monetising the asset in a unique way. Ben, the DJ, operated a turn table playing his vast collection of 45s (yes! 45s! a reason to go just to see them!). Light poured in the huge windows and shone off the immaculate wooden floors and highly polished tables. People browsed among the stall holders, tucked into toast, banana bread, and sourdough cinnamon buns that were available over the pub counter (I got to play pub – almost as fun as playing shops with the Rude Health folks). They drank free refill filter coffee (excellent filter coffee at that – far better than at any coffee bar), read the Sundays and talked to their neighbours while they ate cooked breakfast at the big, homely tables. It was a great atmosphere and a model I can see succeeding and being emulated at other pubs.
Highly entrepreneurial. Highly socially entrepreneurial.