A family-run enterprise, which includes Simon Baynes Wholesale and Millies Greengrocers – is set to turn 100 this year and is believed to be the longest-running produce supplier in Yorkshire.
Started by Simon’s great grandfather John Pennington in 1918, he began the family business on the Market in York. John then handed the reins over to Simon’s grandmother Millie and grandfather Eric, who branched the business out into three greengrocer retail units across York. The business was then passed down to Simon’s father, Allan, and then onto Simon in 2006.
Simon, who started working at the family business whilst still at school, said: “I was always going to go into the business, as a little boy, I was always helping out after school, the business was and still remains as busy as ever.
“During the strawberry season, my dad didn’t even let me go to school because there was just so much to be done. Running a market stall is a pretty hard job in itself, but we all worked together to make sure the family businesses ran smoothly.”
In the 1990s Simon noticed that consumer shopping habits were changing, as people started going one weekly shop at a supermarket instead of visiting their local greengrocer or butcher.
Having seen the family-run enterprise develop a market and high street presence, Simon saw this as the perfect opportunity to grow a wholesale presence which would enable the business to tap into the restaurant industry.
He added: “At the time, I noticed a rise in the celebrity chefs, cooking programmes and restaurants looking for different fruit and veg. Restaurants suddenly wanted things like celeriac and fennel and I realised that this was where we needed to be, supplying restaurants, but my dad was really against it and so I started doing it on the sly behind his back. Within a few weeks I earned £4,500 from working with York restaurants and when I presented my dad with the cheque he was suddenly on-board.”
The wholesale side of the family-run enterprise has never looked back and now employs twelve members of staff and has nearly 150 customers on their books.
Simon said: “When we started the wholesale side of the business we only sold fruit and veg, however businesses started asking if we could deliver cheese and other products and so it just seemed to make sense. We deliver pretty much everything and are known to be a one-stop-shop of all your produce supplies in York and beyond.
“We also pride ourselves on offering high quality, fresh and locally sourced produce, wherever possible and work closely with all of our customers to ensure that they get the best produce. We’re a busy company, but we always make time for our customers who are just as passionate as we are about high-quality ingredients.
“Getting the right produce is important, especially as a restaurant if you want your customers to dine with you time and time again. This is why so many businesses work with us as we offer top-notch produce.”
Having closed down the family greengrocer shops in the 1970s, in 2006 Simon decided that he wanted to open up another greengrocer shop, in memory of his beloved grandmother, Millie.
“I always wanted to do something in my grandmother’s honour. Even after we had to close the three shops I always had it my mind that I wanted to open another one eventually and name it after her.
“She was the most incredible woman. She took over as our mother, but she’d get up every morning at four and go to Leeds market, then come back and get us ready for school before doing a full day’s work and then having tea on the table. She was such a strong woman and way ahead of her time.”
Millie’s York opened up on Bishopthorpe Road and has been a huge success, but six years ago Simon took the difficult decision to close the stall on York market.
He said: “It was really difficult. We had been there for nearly 90 years come rain or shine. We had just had our first child and I just decided enough was enough. Having a retail and wholesale presence has however allowed me to diversify the business, meaning we can cater for a wider range of customers.
“We’ll be hosting a party in the summer to celebrate the business’ 100th birthday and I cannot wait to share this momentous occasion with our staff and customers, it’s going to be a memorable day.”