Are you a local shopper? If so, you’ll probably have your favourite go-to store you find yourself returning to. Whether it’s the friendly service, the organic produce or simply knowing you’re lowering your carbon footprint, shopping local has many benefits.
To celebrate this notion, we kicked off our exciting Shop Local series last month by profiling Kombu Wholefoods, a family-run business in Bellingen, NSW. This month, we’re catching up with Myra Thomson, owner of small business Manna Wholefoods, based in South Fremantle.
From being ahead of the curve with stopping the usage of plastic shopping bags to why Boody and Manna make the perfect match, read on to discover what makes this local store so special.
Hey Myra. You've owned Manna for more than 13 years now. What have been your greatest achievements in the business to date?
Manna began in 1988, and I took over in 2006. Running a business for any length of time is a huge challenge, so in some ways, the greatest achievement is that we are still here, doing what we do. We have been quite adaptive and flexible over the years, responding to what our community wants, whilst retaining a clear sense of what we are about.
We have been leading the way, really, in terms of reducing plastic. We stopped using plastic shopping bags about 12 years ago, and have been using more than 90% compostable packaging in the café for at least five years. These are choices that reflect a social commitment above a strict bottom-line approach.
It’s fantastic that you guys have been plastic-bag-free for that long. You must be thrilled to finally see bigger stores and supermarket chains making the decision to do the same!
Yes, it’s been a long time coming. We are long-time supporters of Plastic Free July, and we encourage everyone to take the small and simple steps that will continue to reduce plastic waste in the environment. Plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg.
Manna has built a strong and loyal following within the community. What do you think are the secrets to its success?
We are fortunate to be located in a beautiful community in South Fremantle, with lots of like-minded people who are committed to health and wellbeing. Staying connected to that community is really important – it represents not only our customers but our staff and neighbours, too.
We are also pretty responsive. If customers ask for something, we do our best to get it in for them. There’s a strong reciprocity that we nurture.
We love that Manna is committed to wholefoods and sustainability. How do these values filter down into everything you do?
Those two things – wholefoods and sustainability – are really about a holistic mindset. So I guess we approach things with that mindset and see where we end up. For example, our naturopaths all approach wellness through food and nutrition, emphasising a holistic approach to health. Health and sustainability naturally go together, and I guess that is what Manna is about.
We also have a very stable and happy team who work at Manna, and I think this has a lot to do with the fact that we treat each other with the sort of respect that is not necessarily all that common in workplaces.
We’re thrilled that you guys stock Boody. What are your bestselling pieces from the range?
Boody is a great range that is consistent with many of the themes we represent at Manna. It’s organic, sustainable and high-quality. It has proved to be very popular with our customers, especially the Full Length Tights. I am putting that down to the great many yoga schools in South Fremantle, but I could be wrong!
What makes Boody the perfect fit for Manna?
It’s a natural product that is good value, made from sustainable materials, and fits well for all manner of people.
Tell us a bit about the delicious, homestyle wholefood Manna produces. Any top picks we should try?
We are lucky to have some incredibly skilled and creative chefs and cooks on our team. Our salads are always fresh and fabulous, and we have a great selection of wholesome and nutritious lunches.
We concentrate on wholefoods, with vegan and gluten-free options. We make a killer vegan grilled cheese sandwich!
We also make a huge variety of cakes in-house, most of which are gluten-free, plant-based and free of refined sugar. My personal favourite at the moment is our salted choc macadamia slice.
Seeing as you guys are based in South Fremantle, are there any top suggestions you’d recommend for people to get up to when in the area?
There are great beaches, amazing cafés and pubs, and it's actually a great precinct to just go for a walk and see what you come across.
Finally, what are the plans for the future of Manna? Anything exciting in the pipeline, or are you just focusing on continuing to do what you guys do best?
To be honest, we get excited by the challenge to keep improving. There’s so many ways that we can improve customer experience, sometimes in small but significant ways. We’re always on the lookout for these little gems.