Michael Jenness and Lisa Cussens hit the ground running when they opened Wollombi Road Providore in Cessnock three years ago.
Unlike most fruit and vegetable retailers, Michael did not come from a fresh produce family. However, having previously owned and run a restaurant and being a local himself, he saw an opportunity to take over a run-of-the-mill fruit & veg shop and transform it into a shopping experience unique to the area.
Their business philosophy is simple – keep it fresh and keep it local.
“Our reason for starting Wollombi Road Providore was that we wanted to get back to the way it used to be – fresh, honest, locally-sourced produce favouring growers and suppliers closest to our home here in Cessnock.” Said Michael.
“When I trade with chefs I tell them I didn’t open a fruit shop for something to do: the whole focus was to go back to local. To put the flavour back in to fruit and vegetables, like how I remember them as a kid.”
Coming from an experienced background in food & hospitality with Cussens also having work extensively in retail and run a catering company, both Michael & Lisa lead Wollombi Road Providore by example – offering exceptional customer service which their staff naturally follow.
“There’s a great sense of mutual respect between customers and our business here which you don’t get anywhere else.” Said Michael.
“I think it comes with being part of our local community and supporting one another.”
And it has certainly shown, with Wollombi Road Providore winning the 2018 Service Excellence category at this year’s Sydney Markets Fresh Awards.
The shop features an array of locally-supplied organic juices, deli meats, condiments, Hunter Valley cheeses and fresh breads which Michael & Lisa actively source and select.
The value of freshness has been the main motivation for his business when it comes to fruit and vegetables, and this is big reason why Wollombi Road Providore has held its own in a regional area where supermarkets chains typically dominate.
“As I say to customers regularly, everything starts off fresh out of the ground or off the tree, but it’s what happens in-between that changes the degree of freshness.”
“Supermarkets advertise that they’re the fresh food people and all this kind of thing and yes, it might start out fresh, but that changes when you put it in storage,” Jenness explained.
Wollombi Road Providore is also proactive in helping time-poor people to make better and more informed food decisions.
Pre-prepared take-home meals have proven a hit with customers and Jenness said council had recently approved his application to make more on site – as well as fresh juices and coffee.