Once upon a time, fourteen years ago, friends Paul Hateley and Hamish Gadsby took over an old-school fruit and vegetable shop in Union Road, Ascot Vale.
Neither of them had any previous experience in being greengrocers. In fact, Hamish worked with the AFL and Adidas while Paul’s background was in fast-moving consumer goods. But on returning from a stint living in the UK they both wanted a career change – and found themselves opening The Happy Apple in 2007, the week that Paul got married.
“There’s a famous story when I was working in the shop and my wife and I lived upstairs,” laughs Paul. “A customer wanted coriander and I didn’t know what it was…so I grabbed two herbs, raced upstairs and asked our matron of honour (who had just attended our wedding) which one was coriander!”
Fortunately, Paul’s lack of knowledge about Asian herbs didn’t stop the pair from finding success. In 2013 they acquired the Foodworks next door to create a high-quality supermarket focusing on staples, high quality seasonal local produce, as well as specialty artisan grocery items.
In 2019 they expanded to a Seddon store, taking over the business that was formerly A. Bongiovanni & Son.
“What sets us apart from the big chain supermarkets is our focus on providing a pleasant shopping environment,” smiles Paul. “We pride ourselves on our excellent, friendly service. We try to keep the range interesting and evolving while offering good value specials weekly. Everything is nicely presented.”
“What sets us apart from the big chain supermarkets is our focus on providing a pleasant shopping environment,”
The backbone of the Seddon store is the fresh bread and bakery section. They have numerous suppliers and stock specialty bread for people with food allergies and intolerances.
Thanks to lockdown they now also have access to restaurant-quality products sourced from Melbourne venues that had to pivot their dine-in businesses, including Wonderbao, 400 Gradi and Tonka.
Future plans include expanding their range of vegan products. Coming mid-year is a deli section which Paul is very excited about. There are also hopes for a gelato shop at some stage, much like Happy Eats in Ascot Vale (for the moment you can buy Happy Eats gelato from the Seddon store’s freezer section).
“We like to think that no one leaves with an empty basket at The Happy Apple,” grins Paul. “In fact, our most common customer comment is that they come in for one thing and leave with ten! That’s a ‘happy’ problem to have!”