The closure comes as the popular marketplace begins its transformation into a new-look food precinct and leases come to an end.
Both Ziggys and neighbouring florist, Bunches @ Belconnen, will open for the last time on Sunday, 15 August.
Ken Irvine, along with this wife Toni, son Todd and daughter-in-law Susie own and operate both stores and are “truly saddened to be faced with no option but to leave this once vibrant location”.
“I grew up working here,” said Todd, who is the third generation in this line of greengrocers.
“Every day, we would see the same familiar faces, have a few laughs and do what we love – provide the freshest produce just like our Pop did before us.”
Ziggys outdates the Belconnen Markets itself. It was established in 1972 as a truck in the car park selling fresh fruit and vegetables from nearby farmers. The company then took out a lease within the markets and currently holds the record as the oldest tenant.
The Irvine family themselves are also an institution in the fruit and veggie business. Ken’s parents opened a fruit store in a closed-down Neptune service station in Yass in 1959.
Ken married Toni in 1981 and continued the family tradition by opening their own fruit stall in a second-hand tractor yard in Young. They then went on to open two more stores in Cootamundra and Wagga Wagga.
Ken and Toni bought Ziggys 18 years ago and have been servicing Canberra’s north with fresh organic produce from farmers around Sydney ever since.
“It’s heartbreaking to know we won’t make it to the milestone of 50 years in Belconnen as we had always envisaged,” Ken said.
Elanor Investment Group took over Belconnen Fresh Food Markets three years ago, with plans to rename it Capital Food Market and transform it into a European-style artisan food and entertainment precinct that it says will be the envy of Australia when it opens in 2022.
The ambitious project will transform the 45-year-old market into a 4300 square-metre food destination featuring indoor and outdoor dining, food demonstration areas, restaurants, bars and agricultural produce from some of the region’s farmers and fishers.
The market will be flanked by 400 square metres of landscaped green space with outdoor seating and a sound garden featuring percussion instruments made by a local artist. Parking for 200 cars will sit below the new market hall.
Toni believes many of the old shops are closing because of their lease agreements.
“The leases dictate that if the landlord is demolishing the property, they have to accommodate you in the interim and then set you back up exactly as you were. For Ziggys, this would include storage and cooling facilities, and they don’t want to spend this money.”
There is a backup, however.
Over the past 12 years, the Irvines have worked very hard to turn the Ziggys Fresh store at the Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets into their flagship store.
It took out the coveted Greengrocer of the Year in 2016, as awarded by the Sydney Markets for retailers in NSW and the ACT. It also won Best Medium Business three times at the same awards and is a finalist in 2021, marking the sixth year in a row they have been recognised in this way.
Toni said they had been overwhelmed by the number of loyal customers promising to follow them to Fyshwick.
“We originally only expected about 10 per cent of our customers to follow us to Fyshwick because, after all, you don’t really go to Fyshwick unless you want to buy a TV. But since news of the closure, there isn’t one person who has said they won’t bother coming. We feel very humbled by that.”
Customers will see many familiar faces from the Belconnen store, as many of the staff members are moving over to join the team at Ziggys Fyshwick.
A spokesperson for Elanor said the company had not terminated leases with any of the Belconnen traders, and each had made “their own decisions based on their unique circumstances”.
“Elanor has maintained open communication and negotiations with all BFFM traders with regard to their future arrangements in the Markets redevelopment, whilst ensuring compliance with our respective lease rights and obligations,” the spokesperson said.
“The majority of the current BFFM traders are looking forward to their future involvement in the new Capital Food Market.”