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Mercato Retailing Recipe Wins Accolades

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A European-style 'over the counter' deli, a cook school among the retail shelves and playing host to artisan food producersthese are just some of the special touches Mercato is using to reinvent the shopping experience in Christchurch.

Mercato's efforts are being recognised by customers and industry. Since it relocated to spacious new high profile premises on Fitzgerald Avenue in February Mercato has become a 'must visit' destination on the Christchurch specialty food retail trail.

In October Mercato won the start-up category of the 2010 Christchurch TopShop awards. Then this month (December) Mercato was again in the headlines, this time claiming the title of 2010 Champion Retail small enterprise at New Zealand's largest business awardsthe Champion Canterbury awards.

So what makes Mercato award winning? Mercato stocks the South Island's widest range of quality essential food ingredients imported from France, Italy and Spain and a growing number of New Zealand's best artisan food products.

But it is the service that owners and husband and wife team Martin and Ngaire Baker wrap around the products that really sets them apart. Judges mystery shopped Mercato for both awards. And although Martin and Ngaire aren't privy to the results, they are confident their retail staff did well because they are chosen for their product knowledge and willingness to share it with customers.

Chef Ngaire takes this a step further, demonstrating how to cook great tasting meals in the gleaming in-store kitchen. There is seating for up to 30 people and after watching the dishes being prepared, hearing the stories about the ingredients and tasting the final product, most customers have the confidence to buy the ingredients and give it a go themselves at home.

The European-style 'over the counter' deli is another working demonstration of how to combine simple quality ingredients to create a fabulous meal. Customers can select from a huge array of tasty meats and cheeses to take home or have made into a roll on the spot. Part of the fun is watching the hand wheeled prosciutto slicer in action--the only one of its kind in a retail shop in New Zealand.

Ngaire and Martin believe in the importance of trying to re-establish the link between consumers and food producers so most Saturday afternoons 'Meet the Artisan' tastings are held to help bridge that gap. They have even hosted a cook book launch and visits from local trainee chefs who want to know more about the ingredients they may cook with in the future.

After weathering the recession and a 7.1 earthquake that shook many products off the shelves, winning the two awards just months apart has been a tremendous boost for the team at Mercato.

"It's been a massive year with the move, the earthquake and the general economic climate so to have won these awards makes all the hard work worthwhile. Of course it couldn't have happened without great peopleour staff, our suppliers and of course our customers. We can't thank them enough because without them we wouldn't have a business!" says Ngaire.

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