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Few here on WordPress know I own a Junk Shop. Well not exactly a shop, it is a market stall in Nottingham, and I buy and sell items such as cameras, coins and records. I also own another stall which sells crystals and strange esoteric goods. And then there is another business, an events organisation.

The trio provide a good income. But more important the businesses are people based and without good customer relationships they would soon fail. The market I trade from is dying, it is in need of new stall holders. Many would find the building depressing, a relic of past business success. But the open and future-minded will see the potential. Unfortunately the market is cursed with a small minded and sterile thinking owners, it is council owned, and as you know, governmental organisations are creatively neutered. They have no understanding of contemporary business and the needs of real people. To make this place thrive, all that is needed is to open the doors to every type of business, accountants, small workshops, jewellery repair, hairdressers, barbers, student art, etc. make the market a real emporium. The old dynamic of market trading has collapsed and will not return. The king is dead we need an new beginning!

There were indeed great successes. Old market traders made plenty of money and, in truth, paid little tax. Sadly, those days are of course long gone! I did not become involved in markets until around 20 years ago. The cash and run days are over, today credit cards machines are essential to survival. The old school fell because they could not adjust, the only way for them was a back pocket or handbag full of cash. Being resentful of the tax man’s demands they choose to sink rather than survive with slightly less of the profits in their pocket.

Their failure to adapt and play their dues cost them their businesses. And greed also provided some interesting stories. A butcher who would wash his old meat to ‘freshen it up’ a dealer who earned a fortune from buying items stolen by drug addicts are two of the many stories. Although here is one about a fool and his fortune.

Jack sold cloth by the yard. He’d buy tens of roll ends from suppliers for £6:00 a roll cash and sell the remnants for £5:00 a yard. He had three stalls, one in the closed market and two outdoor markets stalls run by his two sones. Sometimes the roll ends would have 20 yards or more available. No doubt the warehouse people who sold the material were not concerned if a few full rolls ended up in Jack’s ancient van. He always looked the part: Grey flannel trousers, white shirt and tie, V-neck sweater and tweed jacket. One thing is sure, Jack was always clean and tidy. He earned plenty of money, so much in fact, every three months, he’d travel to Switzerland and deposit 20 odd thousand in a tax haven bank. And that was at the time when a home was around sixty thousand pounds. You think this is a fairy-tale? You best think again, there were fortunes made. More than you can imagine, because you base financial possibilities on a wage or salaried income. In Jack’s day people made their dresses, shirts, even trousers. And there were plenty of people who made clothes, so his sales were brisk. All was cash, he paid cash for stock and sold for cash. Overheads were low – profits were tenfold or more.

Every day he and his fellow market traders would meet in the pub near the market. They’d talk business, drink beer and whisky and smoke cigar’s. Other customers thought they were barroom millionaires, full of bull. But make no mistake, these guys were wealthy, big houses and Mercedes were reality. Jack would boast about his ‘holiday trips’ and how his nest-egg was growing. Fred would talk about his ten house property empire. Les had two small factory estates in the city. Butcher Paul turned his cow meat sales into detached houses, they sold for exceptional profits. And at the time market traders following the same paths countrywide.

Jack loved his family and when the time came to retire from the market, his plan was to give the business to his sons. With plenty of money in Switzerland his future was assured. He’d purchased a villa in France and there was more than enough to keep him in comparative luxury. How much had he accumulated? Well, in moment of drunken boasting, he reveals that over the last twenty years the account was worth 840 thousand. And fellow traders knew this to be accurate.

One afternoon, the traders were enjoying drinks in the bar. Jack was complaining about having indigestion all day and the pain in his chest was getting worse. He decided to sit down and take a few minutes rest. At four o’clock his friends were ready to leave and one called over to Jack ‘time to go mate, they’ll be locking the market soon.’ He didn’t reply because his chest pain was in fact a heart attack, he’d died and none had noticed.

Not much of a story, many people have cardiac failure and die. But for Jack’s family the end came with a bitter outcome. Jack, as you will have guessed was a tough man, he’d started with nothing and earned a good income. Not wanting to pay even a little tax, he’d hoarded the money in an offshore account. And trusting no one he’d failed to give the account number or passcode to anyone. Not even his will contained the essential access code. The family tried every conceivable combination of letters and numbers, words and phrases to gain access to the fortune. All failed and the money still gains interest in a Swiss bank account. If only Jack had been able to pay his dues, if only Jack would have trusted a family member with the passcode, if only Jack had left a sealed note with his will.

Is the story true?

See You Soon

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