Chester Market is an integral part of our city’s heritage, and has been a hub of commerce in the city for decades. With the moving of the bus station there’s been less foot traffic, but still the stalls survive. Moreover, new life is being breathed into the market with each passing day.
New stalls are appearing, such as artisan bakery Crustum and the upcoming Planet Anime, and familiar ones have moved into bigger spaces, such as Intuneative. To celebrate the opening local bands played outside the new place, which attracted loads of customers. I managed to see a live act a few days after when I was passing through on a lunch break and there was still over a dozen people watching. You wouldn’t find that at your local Tesco’s. With Brexit and the subsequent inflation, there’s no difference between the prices of supermarkets, yet the quality at the market is much higher. On top of that, you’re supporting local businesses and making friends with the vendors – it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
I wandered around the market at the end of a busy Friday afternoon and had a chat with a few vendors, both new and old. Gino Giacomo opened Stile Napoletano recently and has a lot to offer. Before moving to Chester he worked in London where he won the 2015 Best Pizza In London and the 2017 London Pizza Festival Winner awards. “The 2017 award was decided with a vote and I received over a thousand votes,” Gino says, “a thousand people can’t be wrong!” It didn’t take him long to fall in love with Chester – “I came to visit Chester with my girlfriend only a few times before we moved here. Back in Naples I lived on a small island and here reminds me of home.” I asked Gino about the future of Chester market, and if he’s been accommodated for. “The new market will be open until 10pm, which is really good news for us.” Work has finally started on the old bus station to turn it into the new market, so hopefully this is the start of a new era for Chester Market. If you haven’t been to Stile Napoletano yet, go. Truly excellent pizza at great prices… what more could you want?
The delicatessen Arden’s has been a stalwart of Chester Market since the 70’s, when the owner Phil took it over from the Arden family. All of the produce is locally-sourced. “The eggs are from a farm only 6 miles away, only laid yesterday. They’re as fresh as it gets. Customers come for good food, and I like to think they keep coming back for my personality!” he wisecracks at me, in a way that tells me he’s being genuine. A rapport with the customers seems to be an integral part of the job, I suggest. “They’re more than customers, they’re friends. I see people who brought their kids here when they were only this high, now those kids are off at Uni.” Sounds like a family sort of vibe. “Yeah,” he smiles, “it’s just like that.” I ask him his thoughts on the plans for the new market – “They’re expecting us to pay to move our own stuff over which is going to cost a fortune. They’re asking us to relinquish the lease we have now and to top it off we’re being asked to sign up for a 5-year lease!” All this for a place that hasn’t even been built yet. The change that the council is bringing seems to be one of progress at all costs.
It seems unclear how damaging (and feasible) the eventual move will be, and projections appear split. But for now, even without the bus station, Chester Market is far from abandonment and it continues to offer something unique. Bookingham Palace, for example, is the only independent bookshop in Chester, a lone island amidst a sea of chain places. The market isn’t just a place to get great produce and services, it’s a community. It’s our community, and it’s our responsibility to ensure it survives, or else see it become a part of Chester’s ancient history.