Thirteen years ago, fruit and vegetable wholesaler Leon Mugavin sold his South Melbourne Market stall to open Leaf Store, a grocer in Elwood. Now he’s opened another one in Hawthorn.
“Elwood’s [shop] looks like it’s been there 60 years. It’s a real ramshackle of things, and it’s got all sorts of nooks and crannies,” Mugavin says. “This one’s very new – and looks new. But it’s still like an old-fashioned grocer.”
On busy Glenferrie Road, the new Leaf looks small and narrow from the footpath, but step inside and you’ll find an Aladdin’s cave of local, ethically produced food and seasonal produce.
The fruit and vegetable display includes wild-foraged pine mushrooms, plump yuzu, sweet feijoas, heirloom pumpkins and purple carrots. And you’ll find both organic and non-organic produce.
“One of the downfalls of organic is the growing conditions are harder for farmers in Australia. So I want to give people a choice,” Mugavin says. “They can decide on the quality and price they get with organic versus conventional.”
Every morning, Mugavin is up at 2am to visit the wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Epping. He inspects the produce, compares prices and makes orders for both Leaf locations. He also visits farms to speak with the farmers he works with.
“If it’s not good enough for my family, if they wouldn’t eat it, I don’t want to sell it. That’s my philosophy when looking at the product and its provenance,” he says. “Something like Schulz’s [Organic Dairy] – I know Simon Schulz and the farm. There’s integrity behind their products – and that’s what I want to sell.”
Walls and shelves are lined with products from small-scale producers, such as Dawson’s honey from a couple in Shelbourne and yo-yo cookies from a cafe in Port Fairy, and bigger names including Ceres Organics, Pukka, Loving Earth, Mount Zero and 99th Monkey.
In the fridges you’ll find buckets of Meredith Dairy goats curd, imported Italian cheeses, Barambah Organics yogurt, alt-milks from Minor Figures, Applewood Distillery gin-cured smoked salmon and organic cuts of steak, chicken and other meats. There are also ready-made meals such as soba noodle salads, quiches, soups and burritos.
The space is more modern than its older sibling; the fit-out a mix of blond timber, white subway tiling, black fixtures and brightly coloured accent walls, including one of orange hues around the front counter. A cheese counter and strung up bulbs of garlic are visible from outside, beckoning you in.
“I’ve always wanted a shop like this,” Mugavin says.
The Leaf Store
728 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
03 9017 3343