Rebirth of Harbord Growers
When the Gerace family came to Harbord 26 years ago, no one could have predicted the storm that would erupt for the past seven years, as big developers threatened one of our most iconic establishments. Now that the dust has settled it’s a new beginning for the Harbord Growers.
Ever since I was a little tacker, I can remember going to my local Harbord Growers market. I was born and bred in Freshwater and Mum would stop off on the way home from the beach, pick up some lunch and a few things for dinner. We had roast chicken on Sunday nights and she always said, ‘The chickens taste like real chicken when you buy them from the real fruit shops guys’.
I remember fighting over the bag of grapes in the back seat with my brother and sister – who could get the biggest handful as we would make our sister feed them to us, like the Romans, or face the consequences with a full scale Chinese burn assault.
Those lazy days bring back great memories of the way things used to be, every little shop had its sole and purpose, the butcher, the baker, the local fruit and veg shop amongst them.
Maybe that’s why, when talk of a major development and the chance of us losing one of the oldest running icons in the Village, began we all took a step back, said, ‘Hang on!’ and raised the good fight.
Through the battles that ensued, Friends of Freshwaterwas born; the protest rally’s, the partitions and the land and environment courtroom stoushes. And a little gem has weathered the almighty storm.
This is our Harbord Growers, and without it Freshwater Village just wouldn’t be the same.
So congratulation’s and thanks to us all, the Harbord Growers is here to stay. A little hero in our chaotic lives, a place to call ‘our little shop just down the road’, with not a Coles or Woolies in sight, which is just the way the Freshie locals like it.
COVERED. spoke exclusively to the generational owners of the business, Amerigo, Anthony and Maurice, which put a few myths to rest and opened up a whole new chapter on the business.
COVERED. So boys, your family lead by Dominic and your beautiful mum Beverley along with Tom Merillo handed over the reins in the last few years. How long has the business been in the family?
Amerigo: Twenty six years this year. I think we get a gold watch for that, don’t we boys! (laughs)
C. Produce must be in the blood. How many generations does it span now?
A: Three at this stage, but the kids love running around the shop, so I’m sure it will keep on going.
C. Let’s put all the rumours to bed. Is the Harbord Growers going to be developed in the foreseeable future?
A: Definitely not.
C. You are just completing some major renovations. Does this mean you’re going to be around for some time yet?
A: Yes and yes! We are going nowhere.
C. When did you decide to do the renovations?
A: Back in January. We got the green light from the landlord, which gave us the confidence to enact the major overhaul you are seeing now.
C. What are the major new improvements to the shop?
A: Our new, modern store has been designed to provide our customers with an enhanced total customer experience. Brand new display fridges, brand new deli granite-sided fruit and veg barrels, wider aisles, increased grocery items, streamlined checkouts, a fresh lick of paint and custom built timber panelling have all given the overall store a fresh and exciting feel.
C. How long will the renovation take? What was the investment?
A: We still have a little way to go before we launch our new marketing campaign and website but it’s taken six months so far. The cost of any worthwhile investment these days doesn’t come cheap. But the investment was needed and well worth it to date.
C. Who came up with the concept and ideas for the renovations?
A: The design was a culmination of ideas from a varied range of sources being family, industry standards, customer ideas, specialist shopfitter Sam Bonocorsi of (Maximum Contracting) and our marketing design specialist, All Bases Covered Design.
C. Do you have a management structure of expertise in the various sections or is there one Director in charge?
A: We manage the business as a collective group with each section managed by a specific person with the product knowledge in that range of produce.
C. Now that the renovations are getting close to completion has the customer response been positive?
A: Oh, absolutely. We knew the shop needed a makeover and had done for several years. Now that we have a secure future here we have invested the money right back into the business and customers are very happy with the results.
C. Where do you source all of your grocery lines and fresh produce from?
A: We like to call it in from the greatest variety of produce
in the southern hemisphere. We go to the Sydney markets on a daily occurrence. All the grocery lines come from boutique wholesalers who have their own distribution channels from the manufacturers.
C. Who is your customer?
A: The locals. We rely on them and aim to service their everyday needs. The Village has a wide demographic of local residents of all ages.
C. Any future plans?
A: To make Harbord Growers the best facility possible for our customers and always continue to provide and improve the products that our customers deserve.
C. On a personal note, what are your thoughts on the changing face of Freshwater? Away from the sleepy village to now one of the most desirable places to live in Sydney?
A: I’ve spent the best part of my life being 24 years growing up and working in Harbord/ Freshwater. It will always have that village atmosphere and relaxed feel to it. That’s what has made it one of the most desirable places to live in.
Thanks Amerigo, Anthony and Maurice we look forward to seeing you in the village for many years to come.
Words: Johnevicks Photography: Pia Moore