People power appears to have won a reprieve for a popular ‘fruit & veg’ business that had reportedly been told it would have to quit the Willow Brook shopping centre due to objections from the Tesco Extra store within the same development.
Ronnie’s Fruit & Veg began trading in the town square at the centre on 4th June and had been warmly welcomed by Bradley Stoke shoppers.
Stallholder Warren Shepherd told The Journal at the time that there had been “no issues” with the nearby Tesco Extra store, which has an extensive fruit and vegetable department. But barely a month after opening, that situation appeared to have changed, with Mr Shepherd telling shoppers he had been given notice to quit by the Willow Brook Centre management because of “objections from Tesco”.
One customer, Catherine, contacted The Journal on 13th July to say:
“As a local person, I am very unhappy that the fruit & veg market have been told by Tesco that they can no longer trade. Surely, as a democratic country, we can choose where we buy our goods. Tesco just shouldn’t be threatened by the little guys, and that is what they are. Please can we do something about this? Come on good people of Bradley Stoke we can make a difference?”
More than a dozen similar messages had been received by yesterday and similar sentiments were expressed on a number of Bradley Stoke based Facebook groups.
On Wednesday (16th July), Mr Shepherd began a customer petition calling for the stall to be allowed to stay at the centre and he says he had collected 400 signatures by the end of the day.
The Journal approached the Willow Brook Centre management for a statement and they responded this afternoon, saying:
“Both Willow Brook and Tesco are passionate about working with local communities and promoting local businesses wherever possible.”
“Ronnie’s Fruit & Veg stall has been at Willow Brook for a few weeks now on a trial basis and customers have said that they love being able to shop at the stall. We’re really keen to see the stall continue to offer great service to local people and have agreed that they’ll keep their current pitch in the town square.”
Mr Shepherd, who was not trading at the centre today, told The Journal he was pleased to hear the news, but didn’t wish to comment further until he had met with the centre management tomorrow.
More on this story in the August edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine, out 2nd August.
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