From online store to bricks and mortar, The Food Repository has grown rapidly since it began in November 2016 with 100 products from about 30 local suppliers. At its new Fitzroy home, the shop is stocked with more than 500 products from around 50 local suppliers and one from New Zealand.
Owner Joni Marcelis scours regional Victoria for small-batch producers to make available to people living in the city. The store – which Marcelis runs most days ¬– even has a quintessentially country feel, with native flowers from Bloom box and old furniture from the ’50s and ’60s.
“People are now more aware and want to know where their food’s coming from, and we make that easier for them,” she says. “I look for small businesses where it’s one or two people making one or two products really well.”
At The Food Repository you can find small batch artisanal tea, muesli, honey, spreads, biscuits, popcorn, nuts, jerky, dried fruit, relish, hot sauce, grains, sweets, fresh eggs, bread, pastas, books and gifts. There are few limitations to what Marcelis will stock, but food-wise, what’s essential is that it’s made with all natural ingredients from small-scale businesses doing it because of passion, not money. Sustainability is also considered.
You’ll find milk chocolate pretzels, Four Pillars Breakfast Negroni spread, and the store’s most popular item – nut butters by New Zealand’s Fix & Fogg.
“I’m often surprised by what sells in the shop. For example, the producers will tell me almond butter is their best seller, but I’ll sell more of their pistachio butter in the shop – it’s the quirkier one every time,” she says. “We’re more expensive than your average supermarket and that’s due to the economy of scale. So much handwork is involved, but I think it shows the value of the work that went into it and it’s worth it.”
Marcelis also caters to a variety of dietary requirements with gluten-free pumpkin bread by Oliver Lane, and vegan bars and snacks.
“The food in Australia is just amazing with an abundance of farmers markets and independent food companies,” says Marcelis, who is originally from Belgium and lived in London before moving to Melbourne. “Especially coming from London where basically it’s one chain after another.
“Small producers really care about their product and share the same values. Like us, they put thought into the details, such as not using plastic or anything wasteful or harmful to the environment.”
She recycles cardboard boxes from her supplies to use as packaging for online orders.
The Food Repository regularly runs two workshops in store: one that teaches people to make better use of kitchen leftovers with Leftover Lovers founder Jessie Alice; and one with Sharon Flynn, author of Ferment For Good.
The Food Repository
346 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Mon to Fri 11am–6pm
Sat & Sun 10am–5pm