Eduard Soley: “I had to adapt my business and my family to night-time working hours”

Interview with Eduard Soley, Director, Frutas Soley

What was your working life like when the Central Fruit and Vegetable Market was at night?
I used to get up at 2 in the morning and arrived at Mercabarna at around 3am. I loaded the van with the goods and straight after, off to the La Boqueria Market to prepare the stand. At 8 in the morning it was already open to the public and I carried on selling till 10 at night!

Quite a hard way of living, then?
Yes, it was, but I was used to it. At 17 I already started to go to the Born to buy at dawn. I just adapted my business and life to this night-time timetable. Working hours that I furthermore believe were a better way to come and buy at the Market.

Above all, it was good for the products that were sold. Before, local goods were more present on the Market, and this product required immediacy. I mean, in the morning the product was picked, in the afternoon it reached the Market and at night it went on sale. Nowadays, this aspect isn’t as important as before since products from all over the world are sold and the Market works in a different way.

With regard to your family, how did it affect them with you working at night?
It didn’t affect them that much. We had everything organised to follow that timetable. My wife also helped me in the business as well as other family members who gave us a hand with the children and with the stall.

The opening times changed 20 years ago. What memories do you have of those days?
I remember there was a great fuss made about it. We retail traders were against it and the wholesalers were for it. The Market came to a standstill for a couple of weeks until finally the day timetable got going.

Were you also against it?
At first I wasn’t that much in favour of the new hours because it was going to mean a radical change in the structure of my business. It took us a few years to adapt to it, but I have to admit that there is something good to be said for working in the morning. But there’s also something bad!

Let’s start with the good things…
It’s true that working ‘normal’ hours, like most people do, improves social relationships and also that with your family.

And the bad things?
I have a very personal way of running my business. I like to be on the stall and to be able to see and look after my customers. But when it’s time to be selling I have to come and buy at Mercabarna. This means that when I come I have to buy quickly and that’s why I don’t like this day timetable.

How do you organise things?
I come to Mercabarna two days a week, and on the other days, I send one of my staff. But I’m from the old school. I want to see the goods, choose the varieties and qualities that I’ve got my customers used to. It may seem easy, but buying at the Market requires a lot of skill and experience. The Market isn’t a thing of precision – it evolves and you have to know how to pick out the good products.

Your son has carried on the family tradition. Do you think if the Market was still at night he would have dedicated himself to this?
We’ll never know the answer to that, but it’s obvious that working at night is less appealing. Even so, I think that when I retire my son won’t do the buying like I do. I think he’ll decide to have a couple of suppliers to bring him the goods. He’ll place the orders by phone and won’t have to come to the Market. I think that the future of the retail sector may go that way.