One of my closest friends had a dream of opening a delicatessen. When she lived in London, she saw how local foodie places were central to communities. Cool little delis where you could pick up nice food and have good coffee.
Canberra’s suburbs were designed around local shopping hubs, most of which have been hollowed out into ghost towns. My sister, on an early visit, laughed about how several signs to our local ‘shops’ led only to a half-empty IGA/Post Office that was dimly lit most of the time to save on power. We only shopped there if we were really desperate.
Not much gourmet on offer here.
But the vibe at Canberra supermarkets is changing, and Urban Providore is part of the story.
Urban Providore has a retail shopfront in Fyshwick. You can go in and buy some amazing things. But it is so much more than what you see. Its core business is as a wholesaler, supplying shops such as local IGAs and niche foodie places.
Owner Dawn, originally from Adelaide, recognized that while Canberra had a vibrant foodie scene, this wasn’t being reflected in our local communities. “Most local supermarkets just sold chips and Coca Cola,” she said.
She had a vision instead of the sort of deli that my friend dreamed about; a place selling seriously good food. So if and when friends decided to drop by you could run to the shops and get some interesting cheese, snacks and wine. She is making this vision a reality by stocking many Canberra (and other) retail outlets through her wholesale gourmet food and wine distribution.
“I love what we see happening in places like the Cook and Hackett shops,” she said. “It is great to see the way they are reshaping their local communities. I love in particular the cheese wall at the Ainslie IGA, which was one of the earlier shops to have embraced this local change.”
The first thing that greets you at her new store at the Paragon Mall is the garden – specifically, her edible vegetable garden. I was sad to have missed the trailing pumpkins that had crawled all over the court yard, but there were still a profusion of chilis, tomatoes and herbs.
“Help yourself, no really, please do!” urged Dawn.
And she meant it. The garden was a place for customers to stop by and pick what they liked. For free. There was no charge at all. How frugalista is that!
As our group of foodie bloggers arrived, Dawn welcomed us with a big smile on her face, carrying a large platter of things to taste.
One mouthful of the blue vein cheese with black crackers, and I was hooked. Best. Blue vein cheese. Ever. Tilba Tilba award winning paddock to plate blue vein cheese, if you were wondering.
I also loved a new product she carried – ‘toffee apple’ – dried apple with toffee on top, and we are going back to buy some of her salami to take with us when we visit family over Easter.
She also stocks a discerning selection of local wines. I was happy to see that she stocked one of my favourite wines, an award winning 2018 Rosè from Lake George Winery. Which was a perfect match with the afternoon platter of nibbles and cheeses.
The produce Urban Providore stocks feels like it has been specially chosen with personal attention to detail. And that’s because it has been. Dawn picks a number of items herself, working closely with local artisans to help them refine their branding and (ultimately) get their product on supermarket shelves.
And it’s not just her good taste that is reflected in the selection. She also convenes an annual ‘tasting panel’ where some of the regions top food bloggers and social media influencers gather to sample and critique product. If you think that’s you, then she’s looking for the best of the best for 2019/2020.
When I lived in Taiwan, I used to miss buying quality artisanal Australian produce. I wish I had Urban Providore’s details then, because they can deliver overseas.
In fact, a large part of their business behind the scenes is producing hampers – including for corporate customers. Check out some of Dawn’s amazing creations. And if you mention this blog post, you get 25% off your first order!
In addition, Dawn is offering corporate clients a 20% October and 10% November discount for Christmas orders.
Oh, and do you love a frugal deal like I do? Buy a new product and tag @urbanprovidore and share on social media and Dawn will give you another product FREE with your next order.
Location: 16 of 8 Gladstone St, Fyshwick, Australian Capital Territory
Opening hours: Spring, Summer, Autumn; Wed to Friday 10-4, Saturday 10-1; Winter; Wed – Sat 10-2
Phone: 0414 729 370 or 0467 888 467