Florist Joanne quits East End’s Roman Road market after family link back to 1920s
PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 May 2016
One of the longest-surviving market trader families in London’s East End is quitting after 90 years in the same street.
Joanne Ross finally pulled the shutter down for the last time on her florist shop in Bethnal Green’s Globe Town market square in the Roman Road last Thursday, after 30 years.
The shop was near the spot where her granddad started a greengrocery stall in the 1920s.
Trade has been tough in ‘The Roman’ with growing market bureaucracy and parking restrictions that many stallholders and shopkeepers say has driven away business—Joanne is the latest to hit the road.
“It’s all too crowded here,” she told the East London Advertiser. “The council are not the easiest people to deal with. Parking restrictions affect trade, especially using cameras to dish out tickets to unsuspecting shoppers.”
Even Joanne has run the gauntlet, delivering a 6ft spray of flowers to Bethnal Green’s Co-op funeral parlour last year. She stopped in a delivery bay—and got a ticket issued by a council spy camera.
Without using flowery words, she insists: “I was 100 per cent doing my job in a trade van.
“They claimed I stayed too long. But you can’t just dash in and out of a funeral parlour.”
The funeral director wrote to Tower Hamlets council to explain, but even that didn’t cut through the red tape. It cost Joanna a £120 fine.
She has found a shop in the small Essex town of Hullbridge, near where she now lives in Rayleigh. It’s a bit of a “leap in the dark”, the 46-year-old entrepreneur admits.
But what clinched it was not having parking restrictions that frighten away passing trade.
Even so, she is missing the East End, despite the hassles.
Joanne started before she got the shop selling fresh flowers from a market stall which she took over from her dad, ex-London docker Colin Ross.
But it was Joanne’s granddad Bob Wheeler who started the family business in the 1920s with a stall “down The Roman” selling greengrocery, until he retired in 1986.
Prices haven’t gone up that much in the past 30 years—a £10 giftwrap of flowers back in 1986 is now only £20, for example. Most popular flowers over the years have been lilies, she has observed, which have even outstripped fashionable hydrangeas.
Joanne has also supplied flowers for TV sets, including ITV’s popular Bad Girls series that ran for six years, but just missed out on last year’s Legend filming about the “bad boys” Kray twins.
“The East End has become more restrictive for traders in the last 20 years,” she laments. “Where I’m moving to is just like the East End was 30 years ago.”
Shoppers now miss the cosy atmosphere of her florist shop in the Globe Town markert square where friends sometimes popped in for a chat and a cuppa, like office-worker Michelle Walter from Morpeth School nearby, who has known her 20 years.
But Joanne has taken a piece of east London with her to Essex, transferring the business phone number she has had for 29 years—and even her part-time shop assistant who has moved out with her.
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