In December 2017, Guy Palmer interviewed Lynn-eva Bottomley, the owner of Organic Fix. Organic Fix is a new food store at 937 Main Road, Eltham (on the west side, opposite Arthur Street).
I begin the interview by asking Lynn-eva how she would describe Organic Fix. She replies that it is a ‘community hub of wellness’ where people can buy things that will make them feel better. An important part of this is helping people go on their own little journeys to reduce the amounts of chemicals and fast foods that they consume. And an important part of this is Organic Certification because Certified Organic food is ‘clean and safe’. So, for Lynn-eva, Organic Certification is a means to an end (health) rather than an end in itself. X years ago, she would probably have described Organic Fix as a health food store but she views that as passé, hence ‘community hub of wellness’. The end result is that she sells nuts, seeds, grains, spices, fruit, vegetables, environmentally-friendly cleaning products, and ethical beauty products. Most of these products (and all of the fruit and vegetables) are Certified Organic, with the remainder being where she has satisfied herself that they are equivalent.
As we are talking, I glance around. The shop actually has a wide range of food products, wider than most other local shops that sell Certified Organic food. Particularly noticeable are the long lines of dispensers of nuts, seeds and grains. It is also clear that the product range has grown over the months. I ask Lynn-eva about this. Yes, she replies, new stock is continually being added based on what people say that they want. And it is not just stock that is being added; for example, she has recently started giving out suggested recipes.
The shop opened in June 2017 and has therefore been open for 6 months. Given that there were already other local shops selling Certified Organic food (for example in Eltham, Montmorency, Greensborough and Hurstbridge), I ask Lynn-eva how she would compare her shop with these other shops. She replies that they are all ‘similar but different’. Rather than the shops being in direct competition, she feels that each is creating its own niche and appealing to particular people at particular times. She quotes a phrase by Edward de Bono – sur-petition – to explain this concept. I’d never heard the phrase before but, when you think about it, it makes sense; for example, Eltham has 25 cafes, perhaps twice as many as it needs for its population, but each has its own ambience and its own following.
This naturally leads on to a discussion about why Lynn-eva opened the shop, which has obviously required significant upfront investment and is thus something of a risk. She explains that she originally started working in the health food industry, where she saw first hand how unwell people became well through better food choices and health products. Then she became involved in the fitness industry and assisted people to develop well-balanced lives through exercise and healthy food choices. Then she had children. And then she wanted to work again, with self-employment in a health food store the natural thing to do.
Lynn-eva certainly practices what she preaches: her family mainly eats Certified Organic food except if they have grown it themselves or unless they know how it has been grown/made and are satisfied with this. In line with this, Organic Fix does sell a number of products which are not Certified Organic but where Lynn-eva has investigated how they are made/grown. As she explains, she would like to sell products which are both Certified Organic and local but there are very few Certified Organic producers in North East Melbourne. So, as a default, she sells Certified Organic produce but she also keeps an eye out for local producers who meet her standards. For example, she stocks Old Evropa bread on a Saturday – as I know from interviewing them, Old Evropa’s bread is not itself Organically Certified but it is made with Organically Certified ingredients. We discuss an egg producer in northern Nillumbik: Lynn-eva wants to sell some local eggs and she is going to visit the producer to see how the chickens are looked after and then decide whether or not to stock their eggs.
In total, Organic Fix currently sells products by 7 local producers:
- Botanical Cuisine (Collingwood).
- Koala Honey (Macleod).
- Natural Tucker Bakery (Carlton North).
- No Grainer (Reservoir).
- Old Evropa (Eltham).
- The Good Brew Co. (Brunswick).
- Yarra Valley Tea Company (Coldstream).
The interview ends with a discussion about waste reduction. Organic Fix are more than happy to put their products into their customers’ bags and they also accept and recycle containers given to them by their customers. They also have a unique receipting system: receipt paper cannot apparently be recycled so they invested in some technology which automatically generates receipts which are sent to the customer’s email address. Its merits are obvious but no one else has got round to doing it.
Finally, Lynn-eva gives me some dried mangoes (thanks!!) and I take my leave.