‘It was scary – but I serve the people’

Simone Richardson meets Derek Chong, whose Electric Avenue fruit and vegetable stall was open throughout the lockdown – just as it has been for more than 30 years

man serving at fruit an vegetable stall
Derek and his Electric Avenue stall

Every week is a busy one for Derek Chong, lockdown or no lockdown – and they have been busy for more than half his life.

For 31 years he has been getting up at the same time as many people in Brixton have seen their night’s entertainment get under way.

At 2am, every day except Sunday, he drives from his home in Croydon to New Spitalfields Market, which backs on to Hackney Marshes, to buy the best fruit and veg for his stall on Brixton’s Electric Avenue.

He has been doing this for 31 years so that he can sell fresh produce from across the world – from yam and sweet potatoes, to bananas, oranges, peppers and more.

Derek was 29 when he took over the pitch on Electric Avenue. Why does he do it? “Although it is a necessity – we all need money – I really enjoy serving and meeting people and giving them what they want,’’ he explains.

His family is of Chinese heritage, Derek himself was born in Clapham. Now he shares his Croydon home with his wife Ida and his son Jamal. His daughter Evie lives nearby. But Derek spends most of his day in Brixton, at the market. 

He worked through the lockdown as people needed fresh fruit and veg – and he could provide it.

“It was hard going into the unknown – so scary – but I survived.”

Next time you stroll, or rock, down Electric Avenue, check Derek and what he has for sale. He was there when we needed him and has been for more than 30 years.

It’s the least you can do.