Marc Francis Baum on championing local with Mare Street Market
We caught up with Marc Francis Baum, ex-band member/barman/retail space innovator, and chat about everything from his time behind the bar to some of his favourite foodie spots in town. What makes Mare Street Market Less Ordinary? According to Marc, its how they relentlessly champion the best of what the local scene has to offer. And seeing how he transformed this old dilapidated Job Centre into one of Hackney’s coolest (and biggest) hybrid spaces - its clear that Mare Street Market is really the Market with a difference. 
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? How did you go from barman to owning some of London’s coolest bars/pubs/breweries?
I started collecting glasses before they even allowed me behind the bar. I was in a band and we rehearsed/gigged a lot, so I needed a job that helped me live but also gave me lots of flexible time. As time went on, the band thing didn’t work out, so I started to take working in a bar more seriously. I became the General Manager and to my surprise, I loved it! From then on, it was always in the back of my mind to own my own place. I eventually did find a space and asked my two bosses at the time (who are now my partners) to come in with me, and from there we never looked back.
What was the Eureka moment that started Mare Street Market? What makes it unique from other hybrid spaces in London?
I’ve been a Hackney resident for 20 years and opened a collection of popular pubs and bars in the area with Barworks. I felt that Hackney was missing a space that championed the uniquely pioneering spirit and cutting-edge culture that this neighbourhood is known for around the world.
After seeing the space for the first time, I got so excited because I knew it had the potential to be something extremely special. You rarely see spaces that big being offered up in London! Because so much could be done with the space, we wanted to make Mare Street Market a marketplace with a difference. It focuses on providing creativity, food, and commerce under one roof from some of the area’s most talented artisans and finest producers. It is an upmarket hangout with everything at your fingertips, from an artisan coffee shop and East London florist, to an in-house podcast studio and locally sourced Deli and Off-license.
We heard that the Mare Street Market building used to be an old Job Centre; how did you turn this council building into one of Hackney’s buzziest hybrid spaces?
Yes, that is true! It has taken four years to convert this once-dilapidated Job Centre into the bustling creative space that is Mare Street Market - we have completely revamped the interior with a modern industrial design.
Our ambition was always to generate employment in the local area whilst also providing a creative space for the thriving community, so the Job Centre was the perfect setting for this.
In what ways do you push the boundaries and try to be ‘less ordinary’ with what you do?
What makes us 'Less Ordinary' compared other spots in London, is that we champion local talent and traders from food through to music. By working predominantly with East London businesses, the market is a platform where local entrepreneurs and producers can promote their creations. We regularly meet with local business owners to incubate and nurture their talent. From stocking independent brands Like East London Liquor Company in our Off-License, the deli using local bakers like Bread Station, pickles from Newton & Pott and beers and ales from London Fields brewery & Five Points Brewing Company both located just around the corner.
We have an in-house Podcast studio, Mare Street On-Air, where local entrepreneurs and the market’s partners are invited to create content with our podcast producers and promote their business on the airwaves. Whilst it is a paid-for operation, it operates on a sliding scale for corporate requests right through to local and community-based projects that we sometimes accommodate for free. We are really keen to do work more with local schools and kids.
In such a major way, Mare Street market has really pushed the boundaries of hybrid spaces in London. Do you think the way people inhabit retails paces is changing? Are hybrid spaces the future? 
It is definitely changing. As consumers become more time-poor, hybrid spaces offer us a one-stop shop for multiple experiences and needs. Rather than spending a day running between various shops, you can come to Mare Street Market and leave with your groceries, flowers, a Christmas gift, as well as a delicious meal.
We’ve also launched a shoppable restaurant, which is becoming more popular as diners look to recreate the interiors of their favourite restaurants at home. The recently opened Dining Room is decorated with beautiful chandeliers and antique furniture from Shoreditch interior store Pure White Lines and can all be purchased and taken home. Restaurants aren’t just for eating in anymore!
 
Who, what or where is grabbing your attention in London right now?  Who are the ‘less ordinary’ people, ideas, places, and experiences in town that you think deserve a shout? 
I think companies like The Collective who are creating co-living spaces, as well as Hotel groups like Native that are focusing on producing cool hotels/apartments, are doing very interesting things. If you add what we do to their ground floor reception areas, it becomes Mare Street Market on steroids!
I’m a big fan of Caravan, but Hackney continues to produce amazing people/restaurants like Brat, Bright, Cornerstone, Pidgin, Magnus Reid at Legs and Claire at Violets bakery who produced the Royal wedding cake this year.
Is there any place in particular on your wish-list that you want to check out, but haven’t had the chance to yet? 
Well, I couldn’t get a table at Lilia in Brooklyn recently! Although I am talking to them about a kitchen take-over next year, so hopefully I will get to eat their food after all! I haven’t been to Jolene yet in Stoke Newington which is another must on my list.
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Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies

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