Doncaster’s fruit-a-peel couple say a fond farewell

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A couple have packed up their fruit and veg stall on Doncaster Market for the last time after more than five decades in business.

Tony and Christine Arkless are retiring from market trading after countless 4.30am starts and 13-hour days.

Tony and Christine Arkless, who are retiring from their stall on Doncaster Market after 55 years

Tony and Christine Arkless, who are retiring from their stall on Doncaster Market after 55 years

Hordes of customers paid a visit to the Warmsworth couple on Friday to do their last grocery shop with them and wish them well for their retirement.

Christine, 65, said: “We have been here a long, long time.

“We have seen kids grow up and their grandkids grow up. It’s a really good crowd of people.”

Tony, 69, left school at 15 in 1959 and joined his parents, John and May Arkless, on their fruit and veg stall. Christine joined them in about 1978.

John sadly died aged 64 in 1982, but Tony and Christine continued running the stall and they remained familiar faces on their pitch by the junction of Sunny Bar and Market Place ever since.

The couple originally traded on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays but in the last couple of years they cut it down to two days a week.

Tony said: “We have enjoyed doing it. It’s got harder in recent years, especially in the last two years with the cold weather - we endured snow, wind, everything.”

“We have always had nice customers. Lots of them have fetched us cards and flowers and chocolates for our retirement.”

Christine added: “During the really bad snow last year we were the only ones on the market.

“A customer had placed an order with us for a big family party so we knew we had to be there. She rang up the night before to see if we were going to be open because the weather was so bad but we said ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be there’. She was so grateful but that’s just what you have to do for your customers.”

The couple have just bought a new caravan and they are looking forward to a number of trips including one to Majorca next month.

They are also looking forward to enjoying spending more time with their children Lisa, 43, Louise, 41, and Emma, 39, as well as grandchildren Ebony, 17, Hollie, 13, Ruby, five, and Isla, 18 months.

Chris Savage, project manager for the National Market Traders’ Federation, said: “It is both heartening and bittersweet to see traders leave the market after such an impressive length of time serving the shoppers of Doncaster.

“Tony and Christine are proof that the markets in Doncaster continue to be great platforms to run successful businesses, providing much-needed services to the community.

“The NMTF is here to help those entrepreneurs who believe they can fill their shoes by providing a package of support which includes retail training and business insurance.”