Life in a Melbourne Market

Sibling rivalry is a big party of Fay Konstantinidi's life. The rivalry is not over the usual things such as favouritism or pocket money, but over cheese, olives and cured meats. Members of her family are stalwarts in the Dairy Hall at the Queen Victoria Market.

At the age of 14, Konstantinidis, one of three children, began working in her parents' deli at the market. She spent several years working part time while she studied. After traveling overseas, she returned in the early 1990's and began working full time in another deli at the market run by her mother. Eleven years ago Konstantinidis bought her own business - The Queen Vic Deli. Today, three corners of a Dairy Hall t-intersection are owned by members of the Konstantinidis family.

"It is good healthy competition,"Konstantinidis says.

"At the end of the day we talk about our day and work together. We try and be different with our stock - and we help one another out."

Family involvement is common among stallholders at the Queen Victoria and Preston markets. But how do these people sustain a viable business year in year out, and what is their point of difference with supermarkets, which have started to introduce more variety in their deli, seafood, fruit and vegetable sections?

Queen Victoria Market managing director Jim Monaghan says the main difference is the shopping experience and vibe of the market. "It's the traders that make the market,"Monaghan says. "At a supermarket you might exchange pleasantries, but that is it. At a market you interact with people, you talk - it is a shopping experience."

But Monaghan acknowledges the threat from supermarkets and says the challenge is to persuade shoppers to prefer markets.

"I think it is a matter of keeping the market very relevant to the time,"he says. "So we are constantly and actively looking for new traders with interesting products. An example of this would be organics. "We had one or two organic fruit and vegetable traders; now we have four. "We have brought in organic dry foods, organic bread and an organic butcher. They are all examples of where the trends are going."

In addition, older stallholders have moved with the times by installing Eftpos and credit card facilities.

The Queen Victoria Market is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year and has history and a prime location on its side.

The Preston Market, which began in 1970, has a different set of challenges. Like its CBD counterpart, it sells fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, meat and deli produce. But it doesn't have many tourists, Eftpos and credit card facilities are not readily available, and many of the stallholders find they have to speak a second language to
be successful.

Bill Broumis, owner of Con's Lemnos Deli in the Preston Market Dairy Hall, says he tries to hire staff who speak a second language - preferably Macedonian, Greek or Italian. "They need to speak a different language because of the population", Broumis says. "A few of the customers don't speak English well."Bilingual staff is one thing; keeping pace with contemporary shopping trends is another. As Parnasos Meats stall owner Tom Houndalas says, "We have had to modernise".

"Before, meat had the fat on it and now we have to trim everything off,"Houndalas says. "We are doing different cuts, more Asian-style cuts because there are more ethnic people coming into the markets. But we keep the old cuts for older customers,
which means we now cater to a larger market."

Change doesn't mean losing the family presence or popular traditions, and this is obvious at the Queen Victoria and Preston markets. Where else would you find a nativity scene among the watermelons and plastic bags? Yet no one flinches at Preston Market when they see Mary and Joseph perched in a stand at fruit and vegetable suppliers Sam Virgona and Sons Pty Ltd.

Preston Market Manager Anita Broers says this is part of the market's magic. "We have a multicultural diversity in our tenancy mix and our food,"Broers says. "Things that people find difficult to find in their supermarket they can find here."

Stallholders and shoppers hope the magic will be retained when the market's long awaited redevelopment goes ahead.

In the meantime, Preston, like more Melbourne markets, rings with the sounds of a very large family doing business.

Local Melbourne Flavour

Melbourne's purpose-built food markets such as the Queen Victoria, South Melbourne, Camberwell, Prahran and Preston are thriving, but there is also a growing appreciation for smaller farmer's markets.

One of the oldest and best known, the Gleadell Street Market in Richmond, has been held at a variety of local sites since 1873. Every Saturday morning the street between Bridge Road and Highett Street is blocked off from 7am to 1pm. The stall holders offer a variety of fruit and vegetables (including a significant amount of organic produce) and sell them with great character.

The market does not offer deli product, but it has a popular bread stall and one overworked fishmonger. Local shoppers continue to flock there every Saturday morning.

Other markets include the Abbotsford Convent Slow Food Farmers Market, CERES Market in Brunswick, Atherton Gardens Vegetable Market and the Docklands Farmers Market.

The newest in town, the Carlton Gardens Primary School Farmers Market, began late last year. Eileen Fiederling set up the market after visiting the Collingwood Children's Farm and seeing the potential for the school, local producers and the community. "It's a great way of people getting introduced to good food in a relaxed environment,"Fiederling says.

Melbourne markets always face challenges, but as long as they produce goods at reasonable prices, inner-city shoppers will love them.

See links below for Melbourne's Food & Produce Markets and Farmers & Growers Markets..

❊ Web Links ❊

Life in a Melbourne Market 

Melbourne Food & Produce Markets

Melbourne Farmers & Growers Markets

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