Miranda Jessop gets fruity in Paul Cooper & Sons, Twickenham's longstanding greengrocer shop
Brightly coloured displays of fresh fruit and veggies are a familiar sight on the corner of King Street and Queens Road as, for over fifty years, this has been home to Cousins, Twickenham's independent greengrocer shop. Recently revamped and now trading as Paul Cooper & Sons, the shop has a much improved layout while still managing to retain its old fashioned charm and authentic character. As a nod to its rich history, two of the shop's original cash registers are out on show as well as the traditional wooden greengrocer signs carrying slogans such as 'Bananas A Speciality' and 'Feeling Fruity? Get Fresh Today!'.
The shop first opened in Twickenham in 1966 but the family business can actually be traced back as far as 1870. Owner Paul Cooper takes up the story, "My great-great-great-grandfather came over from Poland and starting growing fruit and vegetables in Kent. He also had a stall selling his own produce in the old Covent Garden market." As time went on, the family greengrocer business gradually expanded and documents show that they started trading in Twickenham 120 years ago. Back in those early days, the family had three barrows along Queens Road and all the produce was transported by horse and cart. "There were thirteen greengrocers in Twickenham at this time, two of which were ours. Because my family had the luxury of a horse and cart, they would go to market twice a day and also sell produce on to the other greengrocers. The horses were kept in a yard in Teddington."
In 1966, Paul's grandfather Archie took over the premises on the corner of Queens Road, previously a meat shop, and it became the fruit and veg shop that it is today. "Archie named it 'Cousins' because, in that opening year, twelve cousins including myself were born," explains Paul.
Paul Cooper took over the running of the shop from one of his 'cousins' sixteen years ago. Paul has been selling fruit and veg since he was just a whipper-snapper. "At the age of eight, I used to stand up on a box in Richmond market and scream and shout like all the other traders." He left school at thirteen and, since then, has worked full-time in the greengrocer industry. Paul has three sons and John, the eldest, already plays a key role in the day-to-day running of the shop and will be the one to carry on the family business when the time comes.
Although the shop has officially been renamed Paul Cooper & Sons, the family is still happy for it to be known as 'Cousins'. Customers can now walk right into the shop between the rows of fruit and vegetables where they will find new products such as fresh pasta, olive oil and eggs. "In the olden days, people would never have served themselves but the new design lends itself to customers selecting their own produce and then taking the bags to be weighed and paid for at the back. Some of our older customers still like us to serve them in the traditional way and we are more than happy to oblige," says Paul.
Before I go, I want to hear the story behind the two retro cash registers out on display. "When my grandfather died over forty years ago, he didn't leave a penny but he wrote in his will, 'If any of you find the money, good luck to you!'. So when we uncovered these old tills in the cellar during the renovation, my sons really thought our luck was in. The tills were all rusted over so we had to get someone in to open them up for us and in each one was a handwritten note saying 'Ha Ha!'." Paul chuckles loudly. "Archie had a great sense of humour, he never stopped laughing," he adds without even a hint of sour grapes.
Paul Cooper & Sons Ltd
36 King Street
020 8891 1900