THE owners of a Covered Market fruit and veg stall who have provided a lifeline for the vulnerable during lockdown are urging Oxfordshire residents to support the historic institution.

Husband-and-wife team Gordon and Verity Piggot, who run Bonners, have joined forces with 13 other market traders to spearhead a home delivery service.

The pair were processing up to 200 packages a day at their peak and recently received their 10,000th online order.

The historic market reopened in June, but footfall in the city centre remains down on previous years.

As we launch the Rediscover Oxford campaign with Oxford City Council, Mr Piggot is calling on visitors to support the city’s independent businesses.

He said: “It’s all family-owned businesses here, it’s our livelihood.

“We all work together and always have done.

“It’s important the city centre survives as there’s so many good independent shops.

“The university might be the brains of the city, but the Covered Market is the beating heart.”

Oxford Mail:

Bonners completely overhauled its business model after many clients in the hospitality sector stopped their orders at the start of lockdown.

The need to help was fuelled by distressed calls from customers new and old, who were unable to buy supplies from supermarkets.

At its peak, the couple, from Cumnor, would work six 14-hour days per week, with their children even answering the phones and taking orders.

The boxes include fresh produce from traders in the market, including the Oxford Cheese Company, Fellers butchers and the Missing Bean coffee company.

Mrs Piggot explained it made sense to team up with other traders to help each other through the worst of lockdown.

She said: “We’re all there for each other, whatever’s needed.

“It’s an incredibly close group and we’re like a family.”

Like many businesses in the market, Bonners has been a fixture for several decades, having started trading in 1952.

The last few months have shown it continues to find new ways to survive and Mrs Piggot hopes that will continue for years to come.

The 42-year-old said: “If we hadn’t done the home deliveries we wouldn’t be here now – we’d be a statistic.

“We love doing it and are so passionate about what we do. We don’t want to close.”

Oxford Mail:

Among the traders to join forces with Bonners was florist The Garden of Oxford, owned by chairman of the Covered Market Traders’ Association Paul Birtles.

He said: “The willingness and desire of Covered Market traders to go to great lengths to continue to reach customers throughout lockdown was one of the positive stories to emerge from this turbulent time.

“While the vast majority of the centre of Oxford was eerily quiet, a number of traders in The Covered Market were working all hours to keep their customers supplied with what they required.

“In addition to the successful efforts of individual businesses to rapidly adapt, and get their goods out to their customers, the collaboration between tenants, spearheaded by the team at Bonners, was, and continues to be, an uplifting example of how important ‘the market community’ is.

“We know, from the feedback received from customers, how much these efforts have been, and continue to be, appreciated.

“On occasion, these extraordinary times have been compared to the experiences that the public endured during the war years.

“Perhaps, in years to come, it will be remembered that, The Covered Market, like The Windmill Theatre, can be proud to say that “we never closed”.