Two of a kind: Mary and Payman

Categories: Behind the stalls

Mary and Payman of The Cider House on picnics, trader camaraderie and getting stuck in

Interview: Viel Richardson
Images: Joseph Fox

Mary on Payman
I have known Payman since I started in the Market in 2008, working with my dad on the New Forest Cider stall as we have been called for most of our time here. He was a friend before he began to work here. Payman previously worked on one of the other stalls, selling dried fruits and nuts.

He is not a shy character and you become aware of him very quickly. You would never walk past the stall without getting a (usually loud and amusing) comment from him.

When he left and was looking for another job, I happened to be looking for someone here on the stall so asked him if he wanted some shifts. It was only a day or two to begin with, but it worked out really well so he is now full time with us and runs the stall when I’m not around.

Some people take a while to settle in to working in a new place and can be a bit quiet at first—not Payman. He was cheerful and noisy from day one, that is just his personality and he definitely had a good time getting to know the stock. Payman loves cider, I think it is his favourite drink. Something you hear all the time when he is talking to customers is, “have a taste of this cider and if you don’t like it, I’ll finish it.”

He is also a very willing worker. If I have a delivery that needs doing, he always volunteers; if there is some heavy or messy work that needs doing, he gets stuck in. He has really embraced the company and everything we are trying to do. He is a very helpful, kind, genuine guy.

I think his favourite thing about the job is Borough Market itself. He loves it here. He was definitely looking for another job in the Market when he left the Borough Nuts stall—he just loves the atmosphere, the people, and the camaraderie between stalls.

Everybody knows Payman, and if you walk through the Market with him, you really get the old school Borough Market feeling. He still keeps that kind of trading atmosphere. The customers love it—they love to see that kind of banter.

His favourite drink on our stall is the Kingston Black cider—he is always trying to convert the customers to it. Because we make it on the farm at home, there is some variability—as there is with all craft foods—and he instantly knows when we have gone over to cider from a new vat.

If I was getting Payman a drink for his birthday from another stall, I would go to Utobeer. They know him well, so I can just go around and say “it’s Payman’s birthday” and they’ll recommend a few beers. In fact, that is what I did on his last birthday.

He does not take no for an answer. He is really passionate about what we do and sometimes what I want to do and what he wants to do is different, and he will argue his point quite intensely. It can get a bit wearing sometimes, but he is just such a nice guy.

Mary and Payman

Payman on Mary
I started at The Cider House in 2010 a couple of days a week, and I’m still here six years later. It does help that I think we sell the best cider in the world. Mary does like the cider, but I’m not sure she likes it as much as I do—probably because she has grown up around it and got used to it.

Thinking about Mary as an employer can be a bit difficult, because I knew her through my best mate Alex, her partner, who also used to work in the Market. She knew what she was getting when she hired me.

I think she enjoyed me being so loud when I first came to work here, I definitely changed the atmosphere of the stall, and she liked the way I interacted with new customers. After a while she did ask me to quieten down a bit—things are a bit more relaxed here than my last place.

Mary is really wonderful to work with. Being on the stall is sometimes very hard work and she is always really considerate to her staff. She does a picnic around the back of the Market after finishing work—bread, olives, cheese, charcuterie, we all bring something—and just wind down after the day. That is the kind of atmosphere she creates.

Mary is very into her food. Don’t ask her if I can cook because she will say no. She and Alex have been to dinner at my home and had my mother’s cooking. It was a combination of Iranian and Lebanese style food and they really loved it. Of course, anything I cooked after that was no contest.

Mary grew up in the country. Her family are farmers who grow the apples and make most of the cider we sell. I think what she likes about working here is that she is in the family business, and is part of making sure it carries on for another generation.

If I was buying Mary a drink not from the stall it would be a bloody mary. You have to really—luckily she likes them. If it was something from the stall it would be our Gold cider. She likes the sweeter types of cider, if it was up to her she would probably have a sweet perry, or a sweet fruity cider.

If we were taking her out for a birthday dinner it would definitely have a fine dining atmosphere—not simply just expensive, but somewhere with top quality food and service. She does like French food, but in the end I think I would choose somewhere serving really good modern British food.

The best thing about working for Mary is that she is just a really nice person to everyone. We get the work done, but often it is like I am just hanging out with a friend. She makes you feel like part of the family, which is a pretty special thing to find in an employer.