A family-run fruit and veg business that is emerging from the longest shutdown in its 44-year history is among the stalls at Coventry Market that have scored top marks in food hygiene inspections.
John King & Sons (Coventry) Ltd made the decision to temporarily pull down the shutters during the coronavirus lockdown on March 23, partly because of the adverse trading conditions as people stayed at home but also to protect customers from the spread of Covid-19.
The three stalls have been trading continuously since 1976 and the family regularly work 12-hour shifts, which includes early-hours trips to Birmingham Wholesale Market.
Scoring the full five stars for each of the stands in the inspections has given the business a lift as it prepares to reopen in the market on Wednesday, September 2.
Preparations have included making the stalls Covid-compliant, implementing the use of hand gels, masks and visors and observing the two-metre social distancing rule.
It caps an anxious time behind the scenes for the business, which was founded by John King and is now run by Susan King together with her husband Martin and his brother Mark.
The shutdown also comes at a time when the independent traders at the market are under intense pressure from supermarket chains and online shopping.
“We have always bought in the best produce and worked hard to make the business a success, so it wasn’t an easy decision to close down temporarily during the big lockdown,” Susan said.
“It was a one-off decision that has never happened in the history of the business since it was started by John King, and hopefully it will never happen again. We did it for economic reasons because we need footfall, especially with the shelf life of fresh produce, which we need to buy in the right quantities and the right price. We also wanted to protect our customers from this nasty virus.
“We want to say sorry to our customers for being closed for so long, we have missed you all and we are looking forward to welcoming everyone back when we reopen.”
The scores were awarded by Coventry City Council food hygiene inspectors after visits to the stalls, located at numbers 159, 162 and 187 in the market on Victoria Road.
Other top traders
Cogs of Coventry, an eco-stall offering zero waste, fair-trade and plastic-free shopping, also scored top marks ahead of its first birthday in September.
The independent trader’s ethos is to reduce the impact on the environment while offering high-quality food, cleaning products and personal care items that have credentials including being locally sourced.
Owner Rachel Ward said: “I was absolutely delighted to be awarded a five-star hygiene rating on my first inspection at the end of last year. It was a surprise inspection and I have to say I felt really nervous as I showed the inspector around the stall and shared our procedures – although I have done a lot of reading and research around the storage of foods and allergens in preparation for opening.
“I really hadn’t expected a five award straight off. I was chuffed to bits.
“I think the rating supports customer confidence in what I do; that I keep our foods in tip-top condition ready for them to enjoy safely, the quality produce we supply, at home.”
All of the inspections were published in early 2020 and were live on the Food Standards Agency’s website as of August 21.
The other market traders that have scored a full five stars in the year to date include Baguette Bakery, Betts, Clive Miller and Fresh Mediterranean Fruit and Veg