We interviewed Clarkie and Ted to learn a bit more about their story, and just by listening to them bicker in between questions, you can tell that they’ve been best friends for a long time- since 1999 in fact!
First things first- how did you both become friends and decide to go into this business venture together?
TED: We were actually neighbours. The first time I met Clarkie was 1999, and – believe it or not – our first meeting he was stranded up on his roof! I saw him up there with no safety equipment and thought, my god! I have to get a ladder and help him down.
What a great first impression! It’s clearly worked out, though.
CLARKIE: [laughs] We’ve actually had a lot of businesses together; fencing, roofing, and gardening… we’ve just had to change with the times. It wasn’t until 2013 that Ted joined me with this business.
Your speciality is the Cadet Forces, correct? What sort of service does this entail?
TED: I’ll pass this one over to Clarkie, he’s your man for this.
CLARKIE: Yes we specialise in the Cadet Forces, particularly the RAF Air Cadets and the Army Cadets, offering a bespoke measuring up and uniform supply service.
No there are plenty of army surplus companies out there but in the whole of the UK, I’ve never seen a supplier that’s able to offer what we offer. For our bespoke cadet uniform service, we measure up RAF air cadets for camouflage uniform and boots on request. What makes it so unique is that the Army Cadets get their uniform sponsored by the Army, but the RAF Air Cadets need to get their camouflage uniform through surplus shops like us. We do deliveries all throughout Scotland with a free exchange service, and even do a mobile kit shop on request where we go to them.
TED: We’ll go out even as far up as Inverness. We’re a small operation with a huge area to cover!
Amazing, and it must be the bread-and-butter of your operation if you’re the only ones that can provide it in the country.
CLARK: Very much so. Honestly, I started it because I was sick and tired of seeing cadets being ripped off from other suppliers. I know what prices they charge. For example, these boots here [points to a rack of black combat boots], we charge £35 for them, other suppliers want £45 or more for the same pair.
Sounds very noble! I’m noticing that your mascot [an old bulldog by the name of “Fat Syd”] is absent today, is it the heat?
TED: Yeah, it’s just too hot for him!
When he’s here he gets a lot of attention from customers doesn’t he?
TED: He’s got his own fan club- some people come in just to see him! He’s actually even got his own army uniform that Clarkie’s wife made for him.
How long have you had him?
TED: Seven years it would be now. Originally, we had two of them, two brothers; Albert and Sydney. They were rescue dogs from the Edward Foundation, which is a great organisation. I’d actually seen them here at the market, and when they walked past, Syd “lifted his leg up” on the sign outside our unit [laughs]- twelve weeks later they were mine!
You’re the official supplier for Kombat UK and Magnum Boots. How important is it to have these external partnerships?
CLARK: Very important. Ukraine’s been putting a big strain on the military surplus system, so these partnerships really help with that and give us a greater range to offer.
What was it that attracted you to trade at Errol?
CLARK: There actually used to be a military surplus store near the grass field before the big indoor market was built. He had a pretty straightforward operation, and I actually knew him from old. Then in 2010 I heard through the grapevine that he was leaving, and I saw an opportunity and started selling from my van gradually moving into a cabin by 2013. Keith and the team have been brilliant with us over the years!
And you’ve made full use of that opportunity! Since you’re so established and you’ve been open every Sunday, you must have some great memories of the market.
CLARK: I can tell you loads of stories but honestly, the best part about Errol is being able to meet all different sorts of people.
TED: Yeah, we get people from all walks of life coming in. Now we’ve got customers all over the world. Japan, Australia… we used to think delivering to Europe was impressive but now we’re global!
CLARK: Another thing for me is helping out with the car parking 1st thing and being the main first aider on-site, that side of it is very fulfilling to me. There was a recent incident with a woman in the JC Hall, people weren’t sure what was wrong with her, and I was called. I was able to identify that she was having a stroke and called an ambulance. It’s these sorts of things that are the most memorable to me, being able to help people…it’s all part of the Errol Sunday Market Experience!