Anthony Maxwell, owner operator, Coastal Providores, Central Coast, NSW.
Tell me about Coastal Providores
We are a small family providore business which has been operating on the Central Coast for around seven years, prior to which I ran a wholesale business in Sydney with a business partner.
Our Sydney business had few customers on the Central Coast so I split the business with my partner to develop the coast side of the market.
Initially we hit the ground running really hard and put everything into the business with deliveries seven days a week, taking in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, and running quite a few trucks out of a warehouse.
Since then we have scaled the business back to operate five days a week and we operate out of my truck from Sydney Markets.
My truck has a stand-by unit on it so I can park it at the market, plug it in and have all my products sent to my truck. Then I plug it in again when I get home.
What do you specialise in?
Because it's always me going to the market to do the buying and I personally understand each and every one of our customers, I really offer a personalised buying service, someone that they can rely on and trust. It's like our customers are going to the market themselves every day.
Who are your customers?
We have a very good broad base of customers including cafes, restaurants, clubs, pubs, schools, nursing homes and retirement facilities.
At one stage we would have had around 95 clients, but at the moment we are running at about 55 customers, which is a good number for me to manage with the high quality of personal service that we provide.
As you would expect business is cut-throat and fickle. Clients are always chasing something a little bit different, and chefs, they come and go, so I really try to develop relationships with people who are business owners, like myself.
What sets your business apart from other providores?
We have a few trucks on the road, so apart from some deliveries, I do everything from start to finish.
We are still really old school and speak to our customers on the phone so that we really understand what they need.
We don't have any fancy ordering system; I calculate all our orders for the day and do all the ordering at the market for that day.
Sometimes, I preempt the buying if I see interesting products or produce at good prices.
Where do you source your produce from?
We source most of our produce five days a week from Sydney Markets, and depending on the season and availability, from local growers.
How did you get into the fruit and veg business?
I have no real qualifications.
When I left school I bought a van and worked for King Island Cheese as a contract driver throughout the Sydney CBD.
Trust and honesty are the most important assets for any business and developing long term business relationships.- Anthony Maxwell, Coastal Providores, Central Coast, NSW
After a few years I moved on to work for another company delivering fruit and veg in the city, again as a contract driver.
After about four years that company was sold and I decided, with a fellow driver, to go into partnership and start our own business.
We built the business from there and learnt about produce and the industry on the job, finally splitting the business in two, with me taking on the customers on the coast and starting again.
What do you enjoy about the market?
I really like everything about the market. I love the people; I've learnt so much.
You get to meet so many interesting people from all walks of life, people like myself with no real qualification, just really hard-working.
There is a buzz about the market that is like no other place.
How has Covid-19 affected the business?
During the lockdown we moved to doing local box home deliveries to keep everything ticking over and provide a service to our local community.
Although, I know a few businesses continued to grow their box delivery services, we scaled it back after lockdown and left this side of the business to those who specialise in it.
What is the secret to a successful business?
Trust and honesty are the most important assets for any business and developing long term business relationships.
What does the future hold for the fruit and vegetable industry?
The make-up of the market will change, with many of the smaller businesses closing and amalgamating, but people need to eat so the market will always exist in some shape or form.
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