Meet the Crouch End traders working to make Christmas great

Julia Kirby-Smith at Fridge of Plenty 

Julia Kirby-Smith at Fridge of Plenty - Credit: Georgina McCartney

“Christmas pudding basins were a nightmare to try and get hold of."

This festive season has had very specific challenges for traders, but Crouch End is helping families celebrate, whatever the obstacles.

The Ham&High went out to speak with business owners about their plans to weather the storm of this year’s supply chain issues.

Julia Kirby-Smith, owner of urban farm shop, Fridge of Plenty, said: “We have cheese made in Tottenham and charcuterie made in Islington. We work directly with most of our suppliers and they are super local. 

“The biggest problem is that some of our suppliers need specialist packaging like certain jars and lids or bottling and there have been issues for them in sourcing the packaging because most of it comes from China.”

Inside Crouch End's Fridge of Plenty

Inside Crouch End's Fridge of Plenty - Credit: Julia Kirby-Smith

The former Channel 4 News editor and producer established Fridge of Plenty in December 2020, as an environmental and ethical farm shop.   

“We get our organic meat straight from the farm where the animals are reared so we have those relationships. We are all about low food miles and don’t sell anything that has come from the other side of planet.   

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“What is the point in having green beans that are flown in from Kenya at this time of year when green beans are in season here and you can get them from a small grower in Kent.” 

John Purkis at Walter Purkis & Sons

John Purkis at Walter Purkis & Sons - Credit: Georgina McCartney

Walter Purkis & Sons, Crouch End’s family-run fishmonger, also sources produce locally with its main uncertainty being choppy seas. 

Director, John Purkis, told the Ham&High: “Our issue is the weather because if the weather is bad, we cannot get the fish. 

“We work on a daily basis so we won’t know until Christmas comes what we will have.” 

Lewis Freeman at Dunns Bakery in Crouch End

Lewis Freeman at Dunns Bakery in Crouch End - Credit: Georgina McCartney

Lewis Freeman, who comes from six generations of bakers, runs Crouch End’s beloved Dunns Bakery. His team have faced some obstacles in the run up to Christmas this year.

Lewis said: “Christmas pudding basins were a nightmare to try and get hold of. The Mason Cash basins are manufactured in Portugal and were six to eight weeks late. 

“Butter has also been very difficult to get hold of. Just yesterday I was let down for a big delivery of butter so we were scratching our heads, trying to work out how we could go ahead and make all of our mince pies without it. But I managed to get it from somewhere else.” 

Lewis, cautious but optimistic, reassured customers that they can expect no shortage of festive treats including stollen cakes, Christmas puddings and mince pies for which Dunns has been using the same recipe for more than 50 years.  

Robert Freeman, Lewis’ great-great-grandfather, came to London in 1820 and set up shop in Highgate. In 1946 David Freeman, Lewis’ grandfather, purchased the premises in Crouch End. 

Glenn Davies at Pet & Garden

Glenn Davies at Pet & Garden - Credit: Georgina McCartney

Glenn Davies, manager of family-run business Hornsey Pet and Garden, said Christmas trees are in no short supply, and are the same price as last year.   

Glenn said: “People are buying trees earlier to have it through the darkest, shortest days and the not so nice weather, as well as everything else with the pressures of trying to make ends meet and utility bills going up, rents going up. It’s a tough old time for people. 

“People just need a lift, working from home and putting a tree in corner with lights on lifts the mood.” 

Franco Papa at Florians in Crouch End

Franco Papa at Florians 2 - Credit: Georgina McCartney

Franco Papa, who owns and manages the Italian restaurant, Florians 2, said cancelled bookings due to illness and shortage have staff have become the norm in recent weeks.  

Franco said: “The problem in this situation is that you cannot get staff from abroad and lots of people left because of the pandemic, plus Brexit which has not helped at all”

Unfortunately, the problems don’t end with the front of house.  

“Ingredients went up in price by 15-20%. Wages have gone up because you cannot find staff so to try and get someone you pay more, obviously if you pay the new person more then you also have to put the wages up for the more experienced staff who are already here as well."  

Keen to keep customers returning he added that “you cannot put prices up, you must absorb the majority of the costs yourself”. 

Though the restaurant is doing well now, Franco is concerned about his business after the festive period. 

“I don’t know what is going to happen after Christmas, and with this new variant I hope they don’t bring in restrictions again because it will be a nightmare to survive.”