Quality, service, ethics = business success
THE fruit and vegetable retail business is not for the faint-hearted.
Huge pressure from the big supermarkets, seasonal fluctuations and tight margins are ever-present - but good business ethics and supporting local suppliers and farmers can pay off.
Just ask Ashleigh Shea and her mum Monica Balzan, who took over Tewantin Market Garden two years ago, when it was in a basement shop at the eastern end of Poinciana Avenue, then four months back relocated it to a main shopfront.
The business has eight employees, offering a variety of lines mixed with artisan products and some organics.
"Our main lines are conventional; we support local producers as well as growers at Gatton and Stanthorpe,” Ashleigh said.
But if you expect year-round supplies of a particular item, try somewhere else, because the business does not support gassed-up, pre-frozen lines that seek to fill the out-of-season gaps, she said.
"It's seasonal; it comes up and goes - that's the way it works - [and] that's how we should be eating.”
The pair have also nominated for the Sunshine Coast Business Awards "to bring a bit of exposure to Tewantin”.
Ashleigh is a big supporter of back-to-high-street shopping.
"There's a good community vibe.
"We're not a high-end store, we're a good, fair-priced store.
"We just want to offer good-priced fruit and veggies, where the farmer is also supported.
"When our local producers give us a price, we accept that, because that's what they need to survive.”
Tight margins means careful buying, Ashleigh said.
"That's come about because of the big guys driving prices down, so people automatically think that's the price independents should charge -but it's not real.
"Farmers feed a nation, and they need a roof over their heads just like we all do.”
Ashleigh knows supermarkets are more convenient if you're dragging kids around while shopping.
"I'm a mum of three myself, so I understand convenience -but we do home deliveries here, too,” she said.
"Sometimes we need to slow down and eat well. Mental health is connected to what we eat.
"We need to take care of ourselves.”