Looking for a tree? Simone Richardson discovers that there is no need to go further than Brixton Tube and the Zucconi brothers, whose Christmas trees were a Time Out recommendation a few years back
Twins Simon and John Zucconi, as John explains, have for decades worked through interference from riots to lockdowns, selling great flowers outside Brixton Tube and, at this time of year, Christmas trees that have been recommended in Time Out.
So now is a good time to recount a history that is well worth telling.
Both the brothers, with an Italian heritage, were born in Saint Thomas’ hospital and grew up in Brixton on Hayter Road and now live in the Tulse Hill area.
The Zucconi twins, through many sales of flowers through the tough lockdown times, have kept the beauty in Brixton.
And their stall has been doing just that for 33 years. Simon explains: ”It’s my own business and I started it because, quite simply, an opportunity had arisen by the time I left school.
“I really didn’t plan on going into this business, but it turned out that it worked for me and it was good. I enjoyed it, it progressed and took me to where I am today.”
Simon loves working and living where he does, saying: “I love being outside. I am a Brixtonian. I know everybody here and people know me. I love the place. People in Brixton are brilliant. Brixton has character – it’s alive, buzzing. I love it!’’
Simon’s brother John was working with their Dad in a cafe in Brixton and when the cafe closed about 20 years ago they began working together.
The first lockdown, says Simon, “Was a bit difficult. But family time, working indoors and coming back was brilliant, because the response from many people was heart-warming – saying how they were happy to see us back as it was a difficult three months.’’
They both worked through the second lockdown. John had genuine concerns while they were going through it.
“No one knows exactly what they are doing,” he says. “You have got to make the decision and, if you make the wrong decision, it costs us money.
“If someone tells you to close down, that means they will have to pay you.
“No one wants to step up and say: ‘Yeah, you have got to close’. So they are literally forcing you to say: ‘I’m barred and a non-essential business’. But nobody officially told us we had got to close.”
It was a truly troublesome time. “With flowers, they are perishable goods. You can’t just stack them away and bring them back,” John says. “They are gone and your money is done.”
Simon reassures that, following his brother’s initial concerns, finally in the second lockdown they had pemission.
“It wasn’t brilliant, but it was alright. We did all our social distancing procedures and we carried on trading.’’
Another concern was the closure of New Covent Garden market and talks of “pick and collect” for flowers.
John and Simon are not the only Brixtonians making it quick and simple for locals and commuters to buy a bunch of beautiful flowers.
Becky has worked on the stall for many years and Michael has clocked 11 and a half years and has known the family for 24. Both have been supportive throughout the whole year of the lockdowns.
I asked the brothers what their favourite flower and separately the named the same one: Peonies!
There are many favourite flowers worth buying outside Brixton Tube. And right now, Christmas trees – that I can vouch for!