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Cheesman Bros: 40 Years In The Fruit And Veg Business And Expanding

Cheesman Bros is a family run wholesale fruit and veg business established 40 years ago. DAVID ROSE takes a look around the busy operation at its base near Wood Street Village.

When most of us are still fast asleep, staff at a Guildford fruit and veg wholesaler are well into their working day.

Some of the Cheesman Bros team: From left: Dave Sturgess, Clare Din, Martin Cheesman, xx and xx, with one of their peacocks strutting by!

Some of the Cheesman Bros team: From left: director Dave Bullock, accounts manageress Clare Din, managing director Martin Cheesman, foreman Martin Sturgess, Anita Farmer, who is Martin’s assistant, and one of the peacocks strutting by!

Cheesman Bros is celebrating 40 years trading and continues to expand its business suppling fresh fruit and vegetables, and a whole lot more besides, to clients that include pubs and restaurants and also schools.

The yard and ‘nerve centre’ of the operation is near Wood Street Village. You’d hardly know it is there – tucked away down a leafy lane bordering Broadstreet Common.

The director of this family business, Martin Cheesman, showed me around. And although it was 10am in the morning, with a good deal of the day’s work done, the yard was still busy with staff making up orders for the following day.

The business was started in 1975 by Brian Cheesman, who was already in the fruit and veg trade. He took his van to New Covent Garden Market in London and brought produce that he then sold to loyal customers.

At one time the family had shops in Merrow and Burpham, that were run by Brian’s wife Jackie.

Son Martin recalls working in the shops doing things like trimming cauliflower when he was aged about 10 or 11. He says he was not allowed the join the business straight away when he left George Abbot School, but went to catering college.

His father’s brothers, Michael and David, joined the business, and as the wholesale side expanded the site off Broadstreet Common was bought. David continues to work for the firm to this day.

Martin’s sister Clare heads the firm’s accounts team and his son, Samuel, 15, is part of the family business working on Saturdays and during his school holidays.

Brian continues to be the main buyer – arriving at New Covent Garden Market at about 12.30am.

With the buying completed, the team are back in Guildford by 4am and the produce is unloaded. Orders and speedily made up and by 5am Chessman Bros’ fleet of vans are on the road delivering to customers.They arrive back to base mid morning.

Dave Sturgess and xx

Dave Bullock and Dennis Davidson.

Dave Sturgess is the yard foreman and Anita Farmer is Martin Cheesman’s assistant.

Martin said: “We supply throughout Surrey, to a lot of East and West Sussex and also into Hampshire.

“Our customers can place orders with us up to 11.30pm using our answerphone and we will deliver to them the next day. Our number one priority is customer service, closed followed by quality of produce and cost.”

Interestingly, in this age of emails, texts, and so on, the majority of their orders are phoned through. Chessman Bros like to talk to their customers, and its seems their customers like to do the same, discussing available produce and what’s coming into season, for example.

Martin explained that there are plans to improve the yard by replacing some of the older buildings. This is in part due to a new contract they now have with Surrey County Council suppling schools with fresh fruit for pupils as well as vegetables.

Martin said: “We hope to have the work completed by the spring and it will make our operation here more efficient.”

Dave Sturgess and xx with a sign for their stall at the Armed Forces Day National Event in Stoke Park.

Dave Bullock and Martin Sturgess with a sign for their stall supporting the Armed Forces Day National Event at Stoke Park on June 27.

But fruit and veg are not the only items Cheesman Bros supplies. Their range also includes many sundry items, ranging from dairy products and bread to tinned and dried goods.

The business has certainly come a long way over the past 40 years. Brian Chessman is due to retire in September, but it is in good hands and there are currently a staff of about 28.

A white peacock makes its way across the yard.

A white peacock makes its way across the yard.

They share the yard with a number of other residents – notably peacocks that freely roam around.

Part of the site is also home to chickens, geese, a few goats and those colourful peacocks. It all adds up to a very interesting operation indeed.

For more details of Cheesman Bros see the website www.cheesmans.co.uk

Tel: 01483 572469.

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2 Responses to Cheesman Bros: 40 Years In The Fruit And Veg Business And Expanding

  1. Shirley West Reply

    July 7, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    Congratulations to all at Cheesmans, they really are a family concern.

    They should feel very pleased with themselves reaching 40 years of fabulous customer service to Guildford.

    I know that they are very generous to all the local schools and many charities including mine, the British Heart Foundation.

    Thank you Martin for all your wonderful support.

  2. Colin Reardon Reply

    July 9, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Pretty good footballing family too!

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