Organic grocers ready to sell up

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:00 22/02/2014
Organic Green Grocer co-owner Seager Mason
REFOCUS: The Organic Green Grocer co-owner Seager Mason says they are too busy to run the grocer.

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With more than two decades feeding Nelsonians local and organic foods from the iconic Organic Green Grocer on Grove St, Seager and Sue Mason are ready to sell.

The organic foods business is listed on Trademe.co.nz for a negotiable $300,000. There is also the option to buy the property the business is in, a two-storey timber building with a yard, built in 1860 with Heritage B status.

The store sells a range of organic products, with a focus on those locally produced. There is also a food bar selling hot and cold food and drinks.

The Masons put the business on the market "in a low key way" while they were not in a hurry to sell, Mr Mason said they were too busy to run the grocer as well as their organic farm, which the grocers blossomed from.

Before opening the Organic Green Grocer in 1993 the couple would sell produce from their organic farm in Aniseed Valley at the Montgomery Square Saturday market.

"We started in 1987 at the Nelson Market and that built up quite quickly, people wanted more than what we grew they didn't just want fruit and vegetables, they wanted flour and raisins and things like that so we saw there was an opportunity to start an organic shop."

When they first started the store in 1993, the organic food movement was in its early days, though the shop had accumulated a loyal following since then.

"We've got customers here that were our first customers at the market . . . a tremendous loyalty has grown from all that," Mr Mason said.

Over the past 20 years he had seen the growing popularity in organic food. A big part of the store was its lunch bar, food made on site.

"The biggest thing has been filling up the range of what people want, originally there was no organic beer or wine or prepared foods but now pretty much the whole range is there and anyone who wants to eat entirely organic can."

With its growing popularity, selling organic food had become very competitive. Mr Mason said the Green Grocer's biggest competition was with online retailers. Supermarkets selling the same range of foods at a lower price was also providing competition, however it had meant they were able to focus on other areas.

"We focused on the things we can do better like the bulk fill your own and ready-to-go. Just about every customer who comes and buys groceries buys something from the lunch bar too."

Mr Mason said he had had a steady stream of inquires since listing the property.

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The couple worked in the store with three part-time staff.

Ideally he wanted to see the business turned into a co-op.

"I think we would have to lead that discussion initially and then step aside when there's a bit of time hopefully another month or two. It will be nice then some people would work voluntarily for membership maybe others would like to invest."

The building was waiting on earthquake assessment, but Mr Mason said he was not too concerned as it was a solid building.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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