Melissa Maness’ original plan for her new organic food business was to sell strictly online.
“But I got so much feedback from customers, family and friends that they wanted in-store shopping, that I decided to have a store too,” she said.
“And the big surprise to me is the number of people who want to come, meet and talk to me here when they shop.”
At 32, the mother of two has graduated from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and has three years of nutritional counselling under her belt.
While counselling, many of her clients asked where they could shop to get the healthier organic foods that Maness recommended.
“I would have to give them lists of where to go for their food because there was no single store in Sarnia that carried all the groceries they needed,” she said.
“People don’t have time for that. They said they wished there was a one-stop shop that had everything at a good price.
“That’s what gave me this idea.”
Pure Local Organics opened two months ago at the north end of the DMI building on Lite Street in Point Edward.
Maness has leased a 3,000 square foot space for her office, a consulting room and a large storefront filled with tables full of produce and shelves with everything from snacks to spices.
She also has a variety of gifts for sale including infusers, French press coffee makers, candles and body butter.
“Initially I wanted to be in downtown Sarnia because I wanted to contribute to the revitalization there. I love that,” said Maness.
But the cost of renovations to suit her needs was too high and would have forced her to raise prices.
Instead, she occupies a former industrial training site that required many hours of painting and cleaning. Its affordability means Maness’ prices are competitive with non-organic products, she said.
“It was a disaster to begin with, but now look at it!”
The 20-foot walls are topped with windows that light up the store. A walk-in cooler and freezer, bright displays and shelving fill the shop.
“Turning it into a food grade space was a big task and we did it,” said Maness.
Besides the renovations, she spent a great deal of time sourcing organically grown products. Two farms, Sleger’s Greenhouses in Strathroy and Pfenning’s Organic Vegetables headquartered near New Hamburg, fill the produce tables at Maness’ store several times a week. Both are established farms with organic certification.
“There’s a lot of concern that the term organic is used too loosely,” she said. “Everything I carry is certified by the Organic Council of Ontario.
“It means there is no genetically-modified seeds, no synthetics, no chemicals. It’s literally about growing things the old-fashioned way. My customers say they can taste the difference.”
Already, Pure Local Organics has regular shoppers who keep the produce moving. Within the month, Maness intends to offer online shopping too. Email [email protected] for details. For a $25/month membership, free weekly delivery will be available.
The store also carries Baby Peach products for moms and babies, an enterprise Maness’ sister, Erica, is operating.
Pure Local Organics is located in the DMI building with access from Lite Street. Call 519-337-8080 or visit http://www.purelocalorganics.ca/. Open Tuesdays noon – 6 p.m.; Wednesdays to Fridays noon- 8 p.m.; and Saturdays noon – 5 p.m.
Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.