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North Road SUPA IGA

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by Newt (subscribe)
Freelance writer, PR person, loving the Perth lifestyle of fabulous food and wine, great weather and wide open spaces.
Published March 30th 2017
Fresh produce breathing new life into Albany supermarket
The North Road SUPA IGA supermarket in Albany has been undergoing a transformation in recent months.

Owner Bob Cybula, who also owns the Denmark IGA has been converting the store, which was a competitor's supermarket, installing fridge sections featuring Great Southern cheeses, a coffee machine for customers to make their own cappuccino for $2 a cup and a fruit and vegetable cutting station where ice will be freshly chipped to keep fruit products fresh, are all being installed.

North Road SUPA IGA, Albany, Denmark, supermarket, Bob Cybula, Taste Great Southern
North Road IGA owner Bob Cybula. Picture supplied.

Bob expects the refurbishment to be fully completed within weeks.

A vegetable 'market' has been moved to the front of the store to showcase to customers fresh vegetables on their way in to the supermarket, rather than as an afterthought on their way out when trolleys are already full.

They also have a bakery that's now producing fresh bread daily.

And Bob's approach for both his supermarkets is to buy local.

Whether that's fresh local asparagus or Albany rock oysters, free range chicken, Albany eggs or locally bred, dry-aged beef, Bob says it's his intention to have it on his supermarket shelves.

"When it's in season we're seeing fresh Albany grown asparagus from Sheelagh Marshall from Torbay Asparagus and Raspberries on our shelves the day it is cut from the fields, which is a far cry from the big supermarkets who can take days for fresh produce to make it from the grower to the supermarket shelves," he said.

And Bob's not afraid to shake things up changing product placement to get the best response from customers.

"The big supermarkets run to a formula where every product has to be in exactly the same place, whereas we can make decisions for each of our stores about what works best where.

"Just because something sells well in Albany doesn't mean it will sell well in Denmark and vice versa, different demographics and different cultures."

Bob said he has put a Polish section into the North Road IGA because customers were asking for it.

"As customers ask, we just add to it, which is the beauty of being an independent supermarket retailer."

He said customers even came into the store with empty packets of products they were looking for, which he was then able to source.

"You have to work with your customers."

Bob first got involved with independent supermarkets in the days of FAL and when Metcash came along and took them over he switched to IGA more than 10 years ago.

He had been working for Coles for many years before he bought his first independent supermarket in Rockingham in 1979.

Then he set up another in Pace Rd, Medina followed by another at Shoalwater.

"We sold Medina to Action and we sold Rockingham and extended Shoalwater from 600 to 2000 square metres," he said.

Bob moved back to the State's south in 1997 when he sold his Shoalwater store to Action and decided to move back to the part of the world where he was born.

He bought a farm in Denmark and started growing 40 acres of grapes. "I lost money hand over fist and people in town were asking me to build a supermarket."

It took a lot of persuasion and the helping hand of a local architect before the supermarket opened in 2001.

And while the building is the same the supermarket has evolved.

"People's eating habits are changing. Back when we opened it was at the height of fast food, but now people are turning to healthier and fresher food," Bob said.

"There's a lot more fresh food being sold, fruit and vegetables, cheese is just massive.

"It's not like the days when you got polony and square ham and people looked down their noses at olives.

"Now olives and anti-pasto are massive. The whole culture has changed in people's eating habits and even Australians are saying 'I'll have a bit of salami with that'.

"And fresh regional produce is an essential part of that new wave.

"Asparagus, even though it has a short season, although I think this year for the first time Sheelagh will have asparagus at Easter. She also has raspberries and sweet corn.

"Then you have Howard Shapland from Shapland Vegetables with his broccoli, cauliflowers and hydro lettuce, sweet corn, his beans and bean sprouts.

"You have Handasyde Strawberry Farm in Mt Barker with the strawberries, the organic and Bee's Knees and blueberries from West Cape.

"I can ring up Howard or Sheelagh in the morning and say 'I want this, this and this', I can pick it up mid-morning and it's still squeaking on your fingers. From the grower to the store and on to the person's plate all in a day."

It's a very different process to the big supermarket chains where it can take days to get products to the shelves.

"Strawberries only have a life of four days and they start to break down quickly. Our way it's from the ground, into the tub, into the cool room and onto our shelves."

Bob says 90 per cent of his meat comes from the Dardanup Butchers Company and it's broken down by IGA's own butchers in the store. There is no local abattoir.

"We don't believe in packaging like the big boys do. We like to produce fresh mince twice a day, once in the morning and in the afternoon. Whatever is left in the afternoon gets marked down and sold off early the next day.

"Our beef too has a maximum of five days shelf life, not 10 days and consumers are starting to understand the difference.

"A lot of people are now coming back to us saying they don't want the cryovac packaging, they want if fresh and also if they want a special cut they want to be able to go to one of our instore butchers and get it done.

"You can't get that at the big supermarkets," Bob said.

While he says it does cost marginally more to deliver fresh product he'd rather spend money delivering that so the consumer ends up with the best quality products.

Bob has been a big supporter of the annual Taste Great Southern food festival which this year has more than 40 events running across the region.

"I wanted to get involved because the area here is unique. It has clean air and the region is special.

He said the region has a lot of small batch farms producing great quality produce but not in sufficient quantities to export, which made it important for people from outside the region to come and visit.

"From where it started, the festival has been a bit like a baby learning to crawl and then starting to walk. I don't think we're running yet, but we are walking at a brisk pace," he said.

Bob said he would like to see more growers getting involved and making the most of it to promote their produce and putting their names to it.

"I love it when the different chefs come down and they do different things and bring different chefs and different growers together, which is really, really good. And great for my IGA store to stand out from the crowd when we support local. "

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Why? New life being breathed into an old supermarket.
When: 7am to 7pm Mon to Wed; 7am to 8:30pm Thur; 7am to 7pm Fri to Sun
Phone: 08 9841 2444
Where: 216-218 North Road Albany WA 6330
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