Patsy, the ever friendly face behind Ladywell Village Fruit ‘n Veg, is about to celebrate her first year in business.
“It’s been hard work … learning about the business … and getting to know the people in the community. But I’ve found it very rewarding,” she says.
“Ladywell is a lovely place – the people here are very warm and have been encouraging. They’ve had nothing but good things to say about the shop since I opened.”
Patsy was a housing officer for 30 years, working in Lewisham, Thornton Heath, Newham, Croydon and other places.
But when she lost her job she was determined to do something different. She says she didn’t feel too guilty as she had already “given many years to that profession, helping and supporting people.”
For several weeks she worked alongside Suleman who runs a fruit and veg stall in Catford Market. “I got to learn a little about the business.”
She was soon looking for a suitable little shop “so when this property (the old Vanilla Cove) at the end of Algernon Road in Ladywell Village became available the wheels went into motion”.
“While I was waiting to take over the shop I had a good look around the neighbourhood and found there was no fruit and veg shop in the area so I decided that’s definitely what Ladywell needs.”
Patsy, who lives in Catford, says she wanted to promote healthy eating by offering good quality fresh fruit and vegetables.
“There are lots of takeaways around here but a fresh fruit and veg shop was nowhere to be seen.”
She opened on February 13 2021 and is about to complete her first 12 months in business.
“I’ve had to learn how best to run the business the hard way … by just doing it. It hasn’t been easy”, she says.
She is up early most mornings to buy fresh produce – “sometimes it’s 2.00-3.00am,” she adds. After relying on help to ease the pressure in the beginning she now prefers to do as much of the buying as she can. “I get better quality produce that way.”
Patsy says she now gets all kinds of customers in her shop. “More and more young people are coming in.” Lots of people come to buy avocados – good quality ones can be hard to find – and they like their broccoli, leeks, kale … to be honest everything. They like to try new things”.
“But surprisingly they don’t buy swedes … I have resorted to cutting them into quarters – now they are flying off the shelves.”
She is keen to work with members of the local community and has already sold cakes including vegan ones for local producers. The shop sign is also designed by a local artist
Patsy says she enjoys it when children come into the shop and get very excited at seeing all the different kinds of fruit and vegetables.
“It is the sort of thing I wanted to promote.” She is happy to show them things. “I have had parents and children come in and try coconut, sugarcane and other not so common fruit and vegetables,” she says. “It can be very educational”.
Patsy was born in the UK but moved to Grenada at the age of five. Her mother is Grenadian and her late father Jamaican.
She lived in Grenada for five years and remembers enjoying life on the ‘spice island’. “Everybody was very courteous … they liked to greet with a smile.”
Patsy came back to the UK at the age of 10 to join her mother, step father and other siblings. I lived in Southall, Kensal Green and Brixton until I moved to south east London as a young adult with two children. I have been here ever since.
“I like living here in the south east London and love working in Ladywell. I really want to thank everybody who has supported me on this journey.”