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Peter Fowler MBE:

New Covent Garden Market's ‘Godfather of Fruit’ passes away

It’s with great sadness that we report the passing of Peter Fowler (78), MBE, on Saturday 4 March, 2023. He was undoubtedly one of New Covent Garden Market’s most influential people of the last 50 years and had acted as Honorary President of the Covent Garden Tenants Association (CGTA) since his retirement in 2012.

Peter Fowler with his wife Chrissie and son Damian.

Known in the Market as the ‘Godfather of Fruit’, Peter was the former owner of wholesale business C&C Fruit, and received an MBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours list for a lifetime of service to the industry and New Covent Garden Market. 

CGTA Chairman Gary Marshall said Peter was ‘simply a true legend’ who will be sadly missed by all. “We all have our own memories of the great man. He was an honest adviser, a true friend and supporter. I send my love to all Peter’s family at this extremely difficult time and may he rest in peace. He will be sadly missed but, I’m sure, never forgotten,” said Marshall.

A stalwart of the fresh produce industry, Peter enjoyed a successful half century in the trade, with 26 years as the head of the C&C group. Starting his career in the old Covent Garden Market, Peter joined the Henry Solomons business, boiling beetroot in the 1960s. From there, he moved to Covent Garden Supply, a pioneer in catering distribution. His final move before the relocation to Nine Elms in 1974 - was to EC Dean, before the firm changed its name to Lyons & Dean.

In 1986, Peter saw an opportunity: market character Lenny Cooper was retiring from his firm C&C and sold Peter the firm. Speaking of the deal many years later, Peter said: “Lenny took a blank sheet of paper and wrote - ‘If at any time, you fail to pay me my money by mid-morning every Saturday, the company reverts to my name’. I must have been mad, but I signed it.” Peter’s acumen came to the fore and the deal saw C&C go from strength to strength. It became known as an exotic fruit specialist, as Peter moved the business away from its focus on traditional fruit, set up at New Spitalfields in 1991 and added Borough Market, where his son Lawrence and daughter Kelly run Elsey & Bent.

“I am very sad at the news of Peter’s passing, Peter was a legendary figure and a true gentleman who did so much for our market, making a lasting impression on everyone he met. I always valued Peter’s honest opinion and know he was very respected within the New Covent Garden Market community as well as in the wider industry, as his MBE proved. Gilgrove Ltd, run by Peter’s son Damian, will continue the strong family connections to our market,” said Jo Breare, General Manager of Covent Garden Market Authority.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to Peter’s wife Chrissie and the rest of the family at this sad time.

The New Covent Garden Market community has been paying tribute to Peter. Here are a selection of the comments:

“This is extremely sad news, he was the Godfather to us all,” Jason Tanner, Managing Director, The Menu Partners.

“A master salesman, a master businessman, a master good bloke, MBE, say no more,” Bruce White, Bruce White Ltd.

“A true gentleman, fond memories. Rest well, Sir,” Miles Browne, IA Harris.

“Peter helped me immensely when I needed it – a great man, one of the best,” Danny Murphy, Yes Chef.

For more information:
Tommy Leighton

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