The real taste of a suburb: Local stalwarts go back to the future

Hayden, owner of Rhubarb Rhubarb Organics, poses for a photo in his shop ahead of Preston Market opening on Sundays for the first time this weekend. Preston, Melbourne. November 10th 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett Hayden, owner of Rhubarb Rhubarb Organics, poses for a photo in his shop ahead of Preston Market opening on Sundays for the first time this weekend. Preston, Melbourne. November 10th 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett
Hayden, owner of Rhubarb Rhubarb Organics, poses for a photo in his shop ahead of Preston Market opening on Sundays for the first time this weekend. Preston, Melbourne. November 10th 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett Hayden, owner of Rhubarb Rhubarb Organics, poses for a photo in his shop ahead of Preston Market opening on Sundays for the first time this weekend. Preston, Melbourne. November 10th 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

Photos of young fruit-peddlers dancing about in their aprons, perfectly cut kiwi fruit and more super foods than you could find in a hipster's hemp shopping bag adorn the Instagram account of Rhubarb Rhubarb Organics.

Haydn Chiron and his wife Sue Sheehan have run the Preston Market produce store for the past 16 years, but they only got onto social media about a year ago.

"It's felt like we've really built a community," Mr Chiron says. "It's really open and really lovely - it's another way of connecting that we've never had before."

Preston Market will this week have its first day of Sunday trade in its 45-year history, Queen Victoria Market is revamping its facilities in 2018 and Prahran Market has launched new foodie-friendly restaurant and bar Wilson and Market in the past year.

Smaller artists and farmers markets are continuing to thrive, popping up every week or so in town halls, community centres and on cordoned-off streets.

Markets, it seems, are becoming cooler and more convenient than ever.

Colin McLeod, professor at the University of Melbourne's business school spoke at the recent World Union of Wholesale Markets Congress held in Melbourne. He says despite the availability and convenience of online shopping, Generation Z ??? those born from 1995 ??? crave face-to-face interaction more than any other generation.

"They are a generation that puts a very high premium on things like sustainability and authenticity - and I think talking to people gives you a much better sense of being able to judge that than reading something online," Professor McLeod says.

Creators Market co-founder Megan Luscombe says she's noticed that the younger crowd at the monthly market, which travels between Prahran, Ballarat, Bendigo and the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas, are particularly conscious about where and how products are made.

"They're really heavily committed to social media, but they get a really massive kick out of coming to our markets and meeting the stallholders," Ms Luscombe says.

Mr Chiron says along with starting Instagram and Facebook accounts, he's gotten onto to new trends in health and wellbeing that appeal to younger people, and has started offering workshops such as Kombucha-making.

Professor McLeod says the trend towards cooking from scratch using fresh, in-season ingredients will lead more people to shop at markets into the future.

"People going to a market, seeing the food, touching the food, talking to the person who's either produced it or spoken directly to the producer - I think it's going to increase rather than decrease."

He says though technology has improved the way markets run, the fundamentals of community engagement and quality produce and goods haven't changed.

"They have always been places where communities gather - the communities around them have changed, but they still see relevance in the market."

Queen Victoria Market executive chair Paul Guerra says people come to the market not just to shop, but for the vibe.

"It's the energy that you get from the people. It's all the sites and smells, the buzz that you get from the bartering," Mr Guerra says.

The improvements to the Queen Vic, set to get underway next year, will include underground storage and new loading areas to keep cars and forklifts away from pedestrian thoroughfares. While the work is underway, a new temporary pavilion with a market garden on top will house affected traders.

"We want to make sure the market there for another 140 years, so making some physical adjustments at this point in time is right to enable it to have a really bright future," Mr Guerra says.

Mr Chiron says for him, markets are about bringing communities together and keeping history alive, while continuing to innovate.

"Markets are such a great meeting place," he says. "One of the big reasons they're always appealing is that we yearn for both of those things - the tradition but that newness as well."

This story The real taste of a suburb: Local stalwarts go back to the future first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.