Like fishmongers and butchers, greengrocers are a vanishing breed. The statistics make grim reading: it’s estimated that nearly 3000 greengrocers closed between 1997 and 2008, the equivalent of five closing every week. Chiswick residents are fortunate to have one of London’s leading examples of this endangered species, Andreas Georghiou. His small, fruit-scented shop on Turnham Green Terrace, which he opened in 1995, offers everything from Jerusalem artichokes to foraged sea vegetables.
Andreas was introduced to the world of fruit and veg as a 17-year-old when he went to work for his uncle Adamou, who had a large greengrocers (now closed) on Chiswick High Road. “I liked it. I didn’t mind the hard work, in fact the harder the better,” he says. “I liked unloading the boxes and taking them down to the fridge because it smelt amazing and I could always sneak a cheeky peach or a strawberry!”
Despite such fruity perks, Andreas describes his work as ‘a hard business’. “For some strange reason buying stock still takes place in the middle of the night,” he says. “If I could go and do my shopping at two o’clock in the afternoon, like Mark Fowler the greengrocer in EastEnders used to, I’d be as happy as Larry! But it is the early bird that catches the worm; you get the best stuff. It’s not a business where you do a lot of pre-ordering because you’ve got to check everything.”
Passionate and articulate, Andreas knows that as an independent greengrocer he has a fight for survival on his hands. “Parking is a major issue,” he explains. “We’ve got people who think it’s too far to walk 200 yards to us. Parking charges now start at 7am here, so the school-run trade we used to get between 8am and 9am has gone completely.” He also feels people know “much less than they used to about fruit and veg. People are now supermarket shoppers and assume that everything should be in a pretty packet. They always say to us ‘your tomatoes taste like tomatoes’ and they’re genuinely surprised.” In order to retain his customers, Andreas makes sure the fresh produce is attractively displayed, tastes great and that the service from himself, his wife Sophie, and staff member Darren is helpful and friendly.
Andreas’s belief in what he does means he’s taking the unprecedented move of opening a second shop near Chelsea Green. “It’s a big bold move,” he says, grinning, “but I’ve never played by the rules. People are very excited about a greengrocer opening in SW3; there hasn’t been a new greengrocer open in Chelsea for decades. We’re going to offer Chelsea all the lovely, flavourful fruit and vegetables that people love. My uncle Adamou’s shop was a fantastic shop. I walk past that site with my son and say ‘that used to be my uncle’s shop.’ I don’t want him to walk past my shop with his son and say ‘that used to be my dad’s’. I want to stay in business. We’re putting everything we’ve got into this. I’ve still got some fire in my belly, though I think it should have been beaten out of me by now,” he laughs.