Stew Garnham and Trish Cook are co-owners of the GOOD Place in Wellington, and Linda Maquire, Trish’s mum, is the third partner in the business with the intriguing name makes you want to go and find out what goes on in there and what’s on offer. We spoke to Stew and Trish to find out.
“We’d both bounced around ideas for a business,” says Stew. “I’ve been coming to The County for five years and I noticed a lack of options, particularly for vegetarians, and that’s where this all started. I was just finishing up my real estate license when Trish called to pitch some business ideas, all of which sounded more exciting than what I was doing. Our brainstorming phase was nuts! We dreamed we could do this and that, have amazing camping packages, all sorts of stuff, but then we calmed down and brought it back to the essentials we’d originally had in mind, which were healthy food options, vegetarian, gluten-free. We have our passions for the environment, too, so we’d strive to be waste-free and reduce our footprint on everything.”
Trish takes up the tale. “You won’t find single use plastic here, and on our waste-free wall we offer alternative things like shampoo bars and reusable produce bags and shopping bags. We don’t just not use single-use plastics ourselves, we actively promote ways to help people do without them in their day to day lives. We’re as biodegradable as we can be in our takeaway with the options available to us- of course there’s so much more we can do and we are working hard on getting there.” So they’re idealistic but realistic, giving good service at a good price and moving steadily toward their dream of zero waste. “If 5% of customers bring in their own coffee cups,” says Stew, “we have to provide vessels for the other 95% to take away. But we talk up our goals all the time and encourage people to make changes. There’s a lot of dialogue in here!”
Stew laughs that the Good Place is a bit of a mish mash, though we would say eclectic. There’s a café and organic grocery with a gravity bin section. They offer organic dairy and stock fresh local stuff, like hummus from Adnan across the street at Papa Ganoush and Momma Hummus. “We deal with Jubilee Farms and Mirepoix out in Milford,” says Stew. “And Cherry Bomb coffee, roasted right here in The County, is a huge part of what we do. We source seasonal and we stay as local as we can. In summer we work with Blue Wheelbarrow Farms and a couple of others to meet the demand, like we planned, for things that didn’t used to be easy to find.”
They’ve been surprised by their clientele. “We thought we’d be a sort of niche place, providing organic, vegan food to those who were living that lifestyle. But what we’ve found is a lot of our customers didn’t necessarily choose to be vegan, they just can’t handle dairy or gluten. It’s not a lifestyle choice, they just need a good place to go to eat and find things they can enjoy with their heart issues or digestion or diabetes, etcetera.” Visitors tell them it’s not always easy to eat healthy away from home, on the road, in unfamiliar places. Even if you’re not on a restricted diet, sometimes you just want healthy options, and The GOOD Place always has super salads, wraps, burritos, rice bowls and granola for breakfast. In fact the breakfast sandwich is one of their most popular whether it’s vegan, gluten-free or regular with lashings of cheese.
“Our approach starts with ingredients,” says Trish. “I’ve done research in Ayurvedic cooking and we serve the best rice for digestion, short grain brown rice which, when it’s mixed with our adzuki beans, makes a complete protein for vegetarians,” The benefit of having the organic grocery store onsite is that when they run low on something in the café they can just walk over and refill. “People who enjoy our food ask about ingredients and we just point and say you can buy our organic ketchup right over there. It’s delicious,” says Trish proudly. “With more nutmeg and cinnamon freshness than the standard sugar and tomato paste stuff.”
One year in they feel it’s rolled out pretty much how they hoped, the reality compares pretty well with their vision. “People come and try our menu and ask about ingredients and we tell them what we have here and where they can find other good things in The County,” says Stew. “We wanted to build conversations around the food we offer and the health aspects and that is happening. What’s surprising, what we truly hoped for but didn’t know whether we’d get it, is the acceptance of the community. The first year we noticed a lot of local people coming in after the crazy summer season finished. Maybe they were too busy before or keeping out of the way because of all the visitors, but when the crowds thinned out we saw how many locals we’d attracted and how many regulars we’d won.”
They’re happy to have survived the winter by keeping those folks happy. Regulars call it a place of serenity. Some people sit for hours doing their work, enjoying the free wifi. Others come in for unlimited coffee in the mornings, sink two or three cups and say hi and bye. “We have good communication with folks that come in,” says Stew. “Conversations start. One gentleman came in recognized what GOOD Place was about, our values and so we got talking. That turned into him offering to help with our outside renovations. The result was a two donated rain barrels as a functioning display outside our doors and with that we helped them promote the local rain barrel initiative by having the barrels here for people to see in operation and spreading the word.” He says the GOOD Place has become a hub for people wanting to make positive change and a bit of a health hub, too, where conversations about mental and physical health happen every day.
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