As we walk towards new fruit shop St Clement’s on Rathdowne Street, co-owner Patrick Taverna queries, “Are you an engineer?” He and one of his business partners, Mario Di Ienno, are trying to put shelving together that will sit outside St Clement’s, holding fresh produce.
With third partner Gerald Diffey, the trio took over what was called The Fruit Shed about six weeks ago and re-opened as St Clement’s last week. Di Ienno and Diffey own Gerald’s Bar right next door and took the opportunity to create a daytime community hub with a strong emphasis on local produce.
Much of the fruit and vegetables on the shelves sit in wooden wine boxes and are provided by the wholesaler who sells to Gerald’s kitchen. Keep scanning the small room – with handwritten produce information on torn pieces of cardboard, elegant lighting and a bare corrugated iron ceiling – and you’ll also find apples hand-picked by Ennio Merli in Merricks or organic grapefruit from Yea. What are potentially the last pine mushrooms of the season, from South Australia, sit in a box at the front of the shop. “Victoria’s season is over,” says Di Ienno, “this could be it from South Australia.”
There are dried goods too – organic pastas and grains – as well as vinegars from Queensland and the not local, but very good tinned sardines and squid from Spanish company Cuca. The fridge holds milk from That’s Amore in Donnybrook and Myrtleford Butter (they also sell Myrtleford’s buttermilk soap) and the freezer provides Jock’s Ice Cream. Bread is from Baker D. Chirico.
It’s a spirited shop that embraces the season, thrives on its sense of place and doesn’t require an engineering degree to run. Just passion for product and experience – and they’ve certainly got that covered.
St Clement’s Greengrocers
384 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North
(03) 9347 8336
Mon to Sat 8am–7pm