GUTTED John Morris today told of his sadness after the market he put his “heart and soul” into is razed to the ground.
John put six-and-a-half years of his life into making Southwick Market the pride of the community.
But leaseholder John, 36, was forced to call time on the cash-strapped market in 2010 due to spiralling costs and a dwindling number of customers.
Bulldozers have now moved in to flatten the site, which is up for let.
John said: “When I see it being pulled to bits it’s really distressing. I put my heart and soul into that place and had to walk away with nothing.
“It’s a real shame because that market had a lot of history and was once bustling with people.”
John, dad to eight-week-old Kaydenjay, has worked on the market since he was 17, after being taken under the wing of Steven Thoburn.
When Steven, dubbed the Metric Martyr after being fined for selling fruit and veg in pounds and ounces, died in 2004, John took over the market.
He said: “I’ve devoted most of my life to this and it’s such a shame because there is so much history behind it. It was a real community hub.
“Steven took me under his wing and was like a father to me. If it wasn’t for him I don’t know where I would be now.
“He was a pillar of the community in Southwick – the people’s hero. Demolishing Southwick Market is like taking down an iconic piece of history.”
John, who also owned the fruiterers, deli and sports shop at the 23-year-old market, put up a fight to keep it alive.
But he struggled to make the monthly £700 payment for rates, £750 rent, wages and bills.
He said customers started to dwindle when families were moved out to redevelop run-down estates in the area.
Another blow came when the Kwik Save next door closed and people, who would do their weekly shopping before using the market to pick up cheaper goods, stopped coming.
John, who is hoping to start work as a taxi driver, said: “I look around Southwick now and it’s not what it used to be.
“There’s no hope or prospect.”
STEVEN Thoburn hit the headlines when he became the first British trader to be prosecuted for selling goods in pounds and ounces.
In July 2000, Mr Thoburn, who opened his stall at the market in 1989, had his scales seized by Trading Standards officers.
In April 2001, he was fined and given a six-month conditional discharge for selling a pound of bananas from his stall.
It triggered a legal battle, with appeals against the conviction being rejected all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights.
In 2004, the dad of three died of heart failure.