Preston Market’s community feel

30 October 2023

Written by: Sarah Varcoe

From food to arts and crafts, the Preston Market caters for all within the local community.

Nonnas wander around during the early morning as vendors set up their stalls at the Sunday market. Traders put on their best smiles as a customer looks for coins in their purse. Mothers gossip together as their kids are distracted with arts and crafts, while fathers sit their kids on their shoulders as they catch up with mates about the latest news.

It was Mayor W. K. Larkins who laid the first peg for Preston Market as the site opened in 1969. Now, the site has almost reached its 55th anniversary of personal connections with locals who trade and buy each opening day.

Open five days a week, all types of people visit the market. Coffee lovers run in and out as they pick up their drink to go on their way to work. Those with new plant hobbies linger around the succulents and fern vendors before deciding what to add to their collection. And Preston Market sells more than just plants and coffee; there are clothes, multicultural cuisines, fresh veggies, and meat stalls.

Frequent customer and local Emma-May Elkojje tells upstart about the sense of community she feels spending time there.

“I always go to Tammy’s Borek and The Fruit Station every time,” she says.” There’s one woman who serves me every weekend and she always remembers me.”

The suburb of Preston is now known as a vibrant hub due to an immigration influx after the second world war and since.  People from all over the world have taken refuge in north-east Melbourne, with the suburb embracing many cultures such as Greek, Macedonian, Italian, and Middle Eastern.

Farmer’s markets are believed to have first originated from Egypt, 5000 years ago. During this time, Egyptian farmers and craftsmen would meet in crowded urban spaces near the Nile and sell their goods for cash. Today, regional towns and suburbs have their own meeting place, whether that be in a parking lot or housed in a privately owned shed, with each market bringing its own sense of community.

Melbourne’s history with trading through farmer’s markets began in the early 1860s. When British settlers came to Australia in 1788, they brought stock, seeds, and expertise. Farms were quickly developed over the 1800s, and the trade markets took off in the mid-19th century, bringing produce straight from paddocks to the table of those who bought it.

Polish migrants Leon and Lola Jolson first owned and developed Preston Market not long after moving to the Melbourne area. During the celebration for Preston Market’s 50th anniversary, Leon told the Herald Sun his dream was for the market to be a “place of noise and activity”. The European style Market is now home to over 130 stalls and welcomes approximately 80,000 people a week.

Local and trader to Preston Market Meenal Garia tells upstart that she often witnesses the community spirit while working on the weekends.

“I’ve seen people while working here on Saturdays and Sundays come together to meet, chat and enjoy with their families and friends.

For Elkojje, the Preston experience is special and unique.

“I feel like there’s not many places like this in Melbourne. I come from Queensland and there’s literally nothing like this. I just think it’s really beautiful, the mix of cultures and the community vibe that it has to offer.”

Photo: Supplied.