Willingness to adapt is the formula for survival in retail
THERE have been many tales of small business operators who have been threatened by, and even driven out of business, when some of the big boys in the retail world move into the neighbourhood.
Today's story is about one of the little guys who sized up Goliath, in this case a Woolworths store up the road, and changed tack a little.
Chris Vella of Vella's Food Store puts it more simply when he said it was really about "rolling with the punches".
Chris and his wife Kim bought their small convenience store on Boundary Rd 20 years ago.
"We had stiff opposition come in and we thought we would have to go into other fields," Mr Vella said.
"It was a scary prospect - fear of the unknown, how locals were going to react, you don't know what's going to happen.
"But it wasn't as bad as we thought.
"We're still holding our own."
One of the ways the Vellas did just that was to look around them, see what might be needed, and diversify to suit.
"There's all this expansion happening in the area (Ooralea) with all the new houses and you could see that the market would change," Mr Vella said.
"There would be certain items, all the knick-knacks to go with the new houses, and we thought there'd be a little niche in this area, because there's not much out this way."
Their hunch was correct, and their outdoor garden and gift lines have proved so popular they've gone from strength to strength.
"The old car shed's been taken over," Mr Vella said.
And when those doors open, it's amazing what you will find inside. At weekends, many are put out on display and this has worked to draw in drive-by traffic.
"We get people from Marian and Walkerston who might have been to the airport, or it's word of mouth, people talking about what they've seen here," he said.
It's just one more example of "rolling with the punches" for the Vellas, in a constantly changing environment.
"We've seen a lot of changes," he said. "Town used to close at midday Saturday when we took over, there were the GST years, the seven-day trading, it's been never-ending change."
Though they have branched out in terms of sale lines, this small store has not forgotten its core business.
Food is front and centre of what they do.
"Kim does catering too - she cooks home-made meals like beef stroganoff, apricot chicken, lasagne, curried mince, sausages," Mr Vella said.
"She makes 70 at a time and they're beautiful.
"Single people get them to save cooking."
- The store is open 5am-8pm, seven days a week
- Good friendly staff
- Hard work
- Good takeaway food (nothing fried, fresh sandwiches, rolls and salads)
- Home-cooked meals
- Willingness to adapt to change