October 14, 2016
For the common good
Since first opening its doors in 2013, the Common Good Ethical Grocer has become a shopping mainstay for Boroondara's ethically-minded consumers. We speak to founder, Meneka Premkumar about her journey from corporate career to community-focused retailer.
What inspired you to establish the Common Good Ethical Grocer?
"It was starting a family that really prompted me to start the business. My husband (and co-owner John Currey) and I were in the ethical consumption space already but when our daughter was born and we moved to West Hawthorn we found we couldn't get the organic, ethically sourced groceries for our family nearby."
Sick of the trek into town and wanting to continue as a hands-on parent rather than return to her corporate career, Meneka founded the Common Good Ethical Grocer, providing like-minded locals with organic and ethically produced groceries 'on their doorstep' in the process.
Highlights of the journey so far?
"Contributing to, and becoming more involved in, the Boroondara community has been a definite highlight to date. We knew many people across the community before opened the shop, but the connection we have now is at another level."
"We have wonderful conversations with our customers every day - about new jobs, new babies, new homes. We share the ups and downs of life, the celebrations and the heartaches with our customers and that is an enormous privilege."
Why Church Street?
"I actually used to live on Church Street and when we signed the lease we were thrilled it was so close to home – with a toddler, accessibility was an important factor."
"Being embedded within the side streets has allowed us to get to know people more intimately. Our business has now grown to the point where we recently extended the shop."
"When we first opened most of our customers were local families. Now we find the demographic has changed and we get lots of uni students and singles coming into the store, too."
What do you love about owning a retail business in Hawthorn?
"I love that we are a very community-based business. We don't have signs up telling customers where things are - we want them to ask us so we can have a chat and get to know them," explains Meneka.
"In founding the Common Good Ethical Grocer we wanted to be part of the solution, to build a business founded on integrity, and to give people an opportunity to do things differently right here in Boroondara."
How do you compete with the big supermarkets?
"In fact we operate in a different space to the big supermarkets, so although we are surrounded by them, they haven't impacted our business. The experience in our store is quite distinctive and our customers come here because they want an alternative to mass produced food and groceries."
"Even though our grocery operates on a smaller scale, we try to meet customers' expectations around seeing produce in abundance on the shelves. People can feel confident they will find the things they need in our store.”
What are your most popular products?
“We source our products from all over Victoria, from Mildura to the Gippsland Valley to St David’s Dairy in Fitzroy. Lots of our customers come in regularly for their staples including fruit, vegetables and milk."
“People know they can hang their hat on the products we stock on our shelves. Our customers also like to know the story behind what they’re buying. It’s great to be able to say ‘this is the tea that Emma and David make in Geelong’. It’s so personal, and that's what I love about our business.”