From apples to apps: 70 years of serving a changing market for Kirkcaldy based family firm

A family-run Kirkcaldy firm is marking seven decades in business by expanding - and tapping into new online markets.

Thursday, 20th January 2022, 10:48 am

Raith Fruit first opened the doors to its shop in the High Street in March 1952.

Three generations of the Brady family have taken the company into the wholesale market, serving everyone from oil rig workers to guests at the five-star Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh.

And while that business to business arm continues, it is now launching a new app for customers to get fruit and veg deliveries to their door.

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Charlie Brady outside the Raith Fruit shop which was in the west end of the High Street in Kirkcaldy

It’s the same ‘shop local’ ethos re-booted for a digital era, bringing the company full circle.

Rewind to March 1952, King George VI had just been laid to rest, television had yet to come to Scottish homes, and Templehall Primary school had just opened.

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The High Street was the go-to place for shopping, and it was built around independent traders, many of which have long since disappeared.

Andrew Brady of Raith Fruit (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

Charlie Brady launched Raith Fruit after working in the trade with Veitch Moir where he sold fruit and veg off the back of a lorry - they’d go round shops in Overton Road, stock them up, and then move on to the next one.

He bought the flats above the shop, and then added next door, which became Raith Flowers, run by Evelyn Brady.

His son, also Charlie, recalled: “He took a chance to buy his own shop in the High Street - we still have the original cheque he wrote to buy it.”

Charlie joined his dad on the regular trips to fruitmarkets in Edinburgh.

Andrew Brady of Raith Fruit (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

Recalled Charlie: “We’d shut the shop half day on a Wednesday and to go catch the ferry at Burntisland to Leith. We’d also get the ferry at the Forth, and we’d come back fully loaded.

“Back then people bought veg every day during the week, and then fruit at weekends.

“We’d have 1000 people a day coming through the shop - they’d want apples for cooking, and then berries for making jam.”

Andrew and dad Charlie with the barrow used when the business first started in 1952 (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

The arrival of supermarkets in Kirkcaldy - from Safeway which was directly opposite the shop, Wm Low and then Asda - changed the market, but didn’t cause the same damage as the retail park which took people out of town.

The family business saw things changing and made a move from retail into wholesale, while still retaining its busy High Street base where staff, initially, selected the fruit and veg for customers. Self-service came later.

Charlie said: “The owner of the Old Rectory askes us to supply fruit and veg, and that’s how we started. Then Carlton Bakery got in touch - it was all local businesses supporting each other.”

The Kingswood Hotel in Burntisland is another long term customer across the decades, and the wholesale business has taken Raith Fruit across Scotland.

Andrew is the third generation Brady at the helm of the business, and has seen its customer base spread.

It has supplied fruit and veg to 90% of oil rigs in the North Sea, prompting long thrice weekly runs to Peterhead, and also supplied summer berries to the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, as well as catering companies, restaurants, and convenience stores in what is a 24/7 operation.

It also got a slice of the COP26 business, supplying fresh fruit and veg as well as a host of other items.

Andrew said: “It was really interesting dealing with vey different and new people - people we’d never envisaged talking to from across the world.”

The switch from retail to wholesale has evolved over the years in response to a changing market - one that has now taken them full circle with the launch of a new app to sell and deliver once again to individual customers.Andrew explained: “We’re away at 1:00am to go to Glasgow fruit market and back here at 6;00am with a full lorry. Vans are then loaded and hit the road.

“We go to market every day - we’re just about the only local company that does that. Some buy over the phone, but we want to see what we are getting. There are lots of pitches at the market and we buy the best produce we can.”

Lockdown saw that wholesale market all but wiped out, but digital technology and the acquisition of another family business, Perth Produce, has got 2022 off to a very positive start.

Andrew said: “Acquiring Perth Produce was a natural progression for us.

“We deliver to Perth but only have a small client base there. This move gives us 30 new clients, and it is a nice size to fit into our business.

“And we never go about touting for business. We don’t have sales reps - people come to us. When they pick up the phone they will get exactly what they ask for.”

The return to selling to individual customers via an app has also helped post-pandemic for a business which employs 18 people at its base in Mitchelston.

“People can log on and buy what they want and need, and we’ll deliver - they get local fresh produce as well, “ said Andrew.

“We want to help push healthy eating to more local people, and promote seasonal produce as well.

“We are confident for the future- we see the app as a new way of developing the company.

“We’re serving the hospitality sector and wholesale and the app will build up the retail customer market for us.”

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