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12 Oct 2014 14:26
Following the success of Market on Main, Jonathan Liebmann has now started the Morning Market in Durban. (Rogan Ward)
Perhaps it’s a penchant for nature that has resulted in Jonathan Liebmann choosing environmental references for two of his best-known
property investments. Maboneng, meaning “City of Light”, was a somewhat
prophetic name for his earlier venture in which a once dormant district in
downtown Johannesburg has become a thriving collection of retail stores,
restaurants, a museum, apartment lofts, creative factory spaces, entertainment
venues and hotels, stretching more than six blocks each way.
Liebmann’s new flagship venture, Market on Main, gives
Joburgers an artistic alternative to suburban commerce.
Running on Sundays from
10am to 3pm in Maboneng, the food and design destination has drawn such a
dedicated following it now has a spin-off night market on the first Thursday of
With the success of this area still shining bright, Liebmann
has turned his eye to Durban, beginning with the Morning Trade — a Sunday
market that will kick-start the current of Rivertown.
Although the city already has the Fresh Fair Market in
Westville, Shongweni Farmers Market in Assegay and the Essenwood Craft Market
in Morningside, the Morning Trade is the only city-located weekly artisanal
food market. Anna Savage, owner of the design-focused I Heart Market at Moses
Mabhida Stadium, has added the Morning Trade to her portfolio.
It’s a full-circle moment for Savage, who has a
long-standing culinary history. “I am a trained chef and worked in the food
industry for many years including owning two restaurants of my own. Always up
for a new challenge, I conceptualised the I Heart Market, which is a monthly
design market that showcases local talents from fashion, jewellery, craft and
homeware. I Heart Market has been running for almost six years now and so I
decided to take the knowledge of running a market and fuse it with my passion
for food and launch the Morning Trade.”
In the months building up to the launch of the market,
Savage had to approach traders to convince them to sign up. Her renown with I
Heart meant she was able to entice acclaimed traders such as artisan baker,
cookbook author and former editor of
Garden and Home Margaret Wasserfall.
Fortunately for Savage and traders such as Wasserfall any reservations they
might have had about the attraction of the market were quickly swept away.
“The highlight of our first Sunday of trading was the number
of Durbanites that came to the market. It was a roaring success,” says Savage.
“There is often a stigma attached to Durbanites that they do not support new
ventures. Well, our opening proved that they are hungry for more exciting
things to do in the city.”
Growing crowds at the Morning Trade indicate that artisanal
food is a strong pull. Savage says she’s encouraged by the number of stalls
that have sold out their wares in the past few weeks. She’s also impressed with
the support Durbanites have given the market. “It has been an interesting
process observing the different types of customers that come to the market. We
have realised that there are three different types of customers that come
through and that we need to cater for.
“Firstly, there are the serious early morning shoppers.
These are the people that don’t want to miss out on the cream of the crop. They
are the serious grocery buyers that are stocking up their fridges with fresh,
good-quality goods. Then there are the social customers who come to meet up
with friends, eat breakfast and have a day out. The final type are the ones
that come for the novelty factor. They have heard about the market and the
Rivertown precinct and are curious to see what it’s all about. Our job is to
provide for all these customers and encourage them to come back every Sunday.”
In response to the increase in numbers, and consequently the
increase in the coffee queue, Savage has decided to bring in a second coffee
retailer. It’s this sort of intervention that Savage hopes will ensure the
Morning Trade survives the hype of it being new. “We want customers to be able
to come and shop for most, if not all, of their groceries on a weekly basis.
Recently, more and more people have become more discerning about the source and
quality of their food produce and, by shopping locally, they are helping to
build a better local economy while being able to chat to the actual producers.
We focus on fresh, good-quality, locally produced foods. This is what we
believe will make the Morning Trade a continued success.”
It hasn’t, however, all been smooth sailing. Having been
part of the launch trading team, Dargyle Ducks is no longer at the market. It
had a promising beginning, but was asked to leave after the second market day,
says Dean de Chazal.
“From our farm, Shayile, it’s almost two hours to get to the
Durban inner city, carrying all our stuff. It was a great start as we attracted
huge amounts of people and I got to catch up with old friends I hadn’t seen in
ages. We also sold out all our produce, which was a first.
“But there were hassles such as complying with codes like
needing a 9kg fire extinguisher and fire blanket. We use a stainless steel
table for carving and serving our duck and chicken, but the organisers insisted
we have a colour-coded tablecloth. Both Sundays this became completely soiled
with the juices of the meat. After the second market we were asked to leave.”
Dargyle Ducks is now at the Wonder Market on Sundays. Carin Robinson of Glenwood Bakery had a fantastic first day at the Morning Trade. “The highlights of our first Sunday trading was seeing and buying exquisite cheeses, being wedged between a family-run artisanal charcuterie company and a stall where one can buy quail eggs.”
Glenwood Bakery sold out all its breads, and has continued
to attract ardent fans. Because they sell out every week, it’s hard for
Robinson to identify their most popular products. “So far people buy what is available, but it is inspiring
seeing people buy with such relish the sourdough breads, which are perhaps not
as familiar as ciabattas.”
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