Sarah C – always up at 3.15 to bring home the freshest fruit and veg

Published on: 30 Nov 2015

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HOW’S this for a working day?

Get up at 3.15am, be at work by 5am, go home at about 6pm, go to bed at 10.

That’s how it is every day for Sarah Conibere, except Sundays, and it’s exactly what she’s always wanted to do.

The reason?

To supply fresh fruit and veg to restaurants, pubs, delis, nursing homes and other businesses all over Bristol.

And for the past three months to supply her own shop in Westbury-on-Trym.

Sarah first developed a taste for fruit and veg while doing her A Levels at the Castle School in Thornbury.

“I started when I was 16 as a Saturday girl in a shop in Thornbury, and as soon as I got my driving licence I started delivering orders,” she told the Voice.

“I just loved it, and when I looked at university courses there really wasn’t anything that appealed to me. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

“I wanted to own my own wholesale business, so I set up as Sarah C in May 1999 when I was 20.”

Sarah had no HQ, apart from her van. Her base was the Fruit, Flower and Vegetable Market at St Philip’s in Bristol where she would select whatever she needed for her customers, make up her orders and then drive off to deliver them.

“For years I had my own working area under shelter at the market where I could prepare everything. I suppose I had always fancied a shop with my own working and storage area, but there was no urgent need.”

The need presented itself when she lost her covered area at the market, and she wasted no time.

Philip Arnell had owned the fruit and veg shop in Carlton Court, Westbury for 10 years.

The business came up for sale and Sarah bought it with effect from September 1st.

“For some time I had wanted to add a shop to my wholesale business and this was an ideal opportunity,” she explained.

“I’m already feeling the benefit of shoppers who are fed up with supermarkets deciding on whatshape their fresh food should be and the associated waste of perfectly good food.

“Shoppers know that we have fresh food coming into the shop every single morning. The bulk of what we have on offer will have been bought at market between the 5 and 6.30 that very morning. “Our customers don’t want their fresh food pre-wrapped.

They want to make their own choice, and of course are perfectly free to do so here.”

She takes two vans and two staff to market. A few wholesale deliveries are made on the way back but the bulk are made up at the shop and distributed from there.

“Whereas I like to drive to the market, I’m invariably in the passenger seat when we come back – doing the paperwork and planning the day ahead.

Sarah has a ‘fleet’ of two vans and eight staff including highly experienced Peter Hacker (73) who has spent a lifetime in fruit and veg including a familyowned business in Gloucester Road and several of his own shops.

“Peter’s experience is invaluable as we find our feet,”Sarah added. The reality is that I have two businesses now.

Sixteen years in wholesale means that I have a very close working relationship with those customers, and now I am really enjoying the one-to-one relationship that develops with people popping into the shop for their goods.

“Inevitably we have re-shaped it to a degree, and will always wish to develop the shop – and what we sell – around the wishes of our customers.

“November is a relatively quiet month in our trade, but now the pre-Christmas rush is getting into full swing and we’ll no doubt be very busy in the coming weeks.

“It will be my first taste of Christmas as a retailer – and I can’t wait to see how it feels.”

Photos: Top - Sarah C’s business HQ was her van, until she opened her shop in Westbury-on-Trym

Bottom - Getting to know your customers – Sarah joins Sam Fudgell inserving Phaeny Kesisoglou White at Carlton Court.

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