Interview with Sarah from Organic Fix
Guy Palmer interviewed Sarah McCall, the owner of Organic Fix in February 2022. Organic Fix is a food store at 937 Main Road, Eltham (on the west side, opposite Arthur Street).
It is summer but the day that Sarah and I meet is one of the cooler days so we sit outside. We are meeting because she has recently taken over one of my most important local food shops and I am keen to hear about her plans, My first impressions are that she is an energetic, enthusiastic, young Kiwi.
A one-stop shop for healthy food for all Elthamites
I start the interview by asking Sarah to summarise Organic Fix for those who are unfamiliar with it.
“Organic Fix is an organic grocery store with some healthy addons. It sells quality, wholesome food which has been produced ethically and sustainably. The aim is for it to be a one-stop shop for healthy food for all Elthamites. Our best sellers are nuts, lentils, chickpeas, fresh veggies, frozen berries, tofu and vegan cheese.”
Sarah has now been running Organic Fix for about two months and I ask her how she is finding it.
She says that she is enjoying herself immensely. She likes interacting with her customers and she likes being able to implement her decisions (she had previously always worked for other people). But (surprisingly, to me at least), her favourite part of the job is getting up early and shopping at the wholesale market Epping, where she talks to the farmers about their food before deciding to buy it.
She adds that she knew roughly what she was letting herself in for. As well as being familiar with the shop (as a customer) before acquiring it, she was familar with Eltham having worked here for the last few years (as the manager of Thrive Bulk Wholefoods). She wants Organic Fix to be part of the Eltham community and, for example, is pleased that she sells the same chai (made by local producer Karma Chai) that the nearby cafe (Papa Bear) uses, so that both parties can refer to the other if the occasion arises.
Easy shopping, low prices and fresh veggies
We then discussed what changes she has made since taking over.
First, she has tried to make it easier for mums with prams and others to move around the store and find stuff. This has been achieved in part by reducing the number of health products stocked.
Second, she has reduced the prices of her fresh produce (veggies, etc). The aim here is achieve a virtuous circle where the veggies sell out quickly whilst they are still fresh, with no stale veggies going to waste.
Both of these changes reflect feedback that Sarah has received from her customers. From our interview, it is clear that interaction with her customers is central to how Sarah wants to run Organic Fix. She wants to chat with them, to find out what they want and to tell them about the food in the shop and where it comes from.
In both cases, also, the change is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Before becoming the owner of Organix Fix, Sarah was a regular customer and has always liked it as a shop. Now she is trying to make a good product even better.
Certified Organic, spray-free and package-free
Many, but not all, of the products in Organic Fix are Certified Organic. Sarah and I discussed the place of Organic Certification. She only wants to sell spray-free produce and Organic Certification is a guarantee that the produce is spray-free (amongst other things). But achieving Organic Certification is difficult and costly for small producers, and therefore can raise the prices of the products.
A further complication is that Sarah, as well as many of her customers, wants to minimise waste and thus wants to sell products that are package-free.
And, finally, Sarah wants to stock products which are local where possible.
So, how to balance these various factors? It’s an ongoing juggling act but thus far Sarah’s stance can be summarised as: Certified Organic where possible (and not too costly) and always spray-free. So, for example, all the veggies and most of the fruit are Certified Organic, with a few fruit being spray-free but not certified. Lots of package-free dry goods.
Seven local food producers stocked
Finally, we have a discussion about local food producers. Organic Fix currently sells products by seven local producers:
- Australian Harvest / Bio Grape (Coldstream).
- Botanical Cuisine (Collingwood).
- Karma Chai (Carlton).
- Natural Tucker Bakery (Carlton North).
- No Grainer (Reservoir).
- Organic Times (Bayswater).
- The Good Brew Co. (Brunswick).
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We have been talking for more than an hour and its now time for both of us to get on with other things. I’ve enjoyed the discussion and I wish Sarah best of luck.