By CASEY NEILL
PEANUT Market will notch up its 40th birthday next year, but kicked off celebrations a little early last week.
The Dandenong Market fixture took home the Best Specialty Market Trader gong at the inaugural Melbourne Market Awards on 8 September.
“I was very, very excited and very proud of all the effort that we’ve been putting in over our 40-year history,” owner Sam Vavasis said.
Customers from the Queen Victoria, South Melbourne Prahran and Dandenong Markets voted for their favourite traders.
Peanut Market now stocks more than 450 produce lines including nuts, spices, seeds, beans and dried fruits.
“It’s great for somebody to see that we’re doing a good job,” Mr Vavasis said.
He sees customers who came to the stall with their parents now bringing their own children along.
“It sort of makes you feel old sometimes when you think about it,” he laughed.
“We do put in a lot of effort.
“We treat our customers as if they’re our mums or grandmothers. That’s the sort of service we’ve got to provide.
“It’s the service and the product that counts these days.”
Mr Vavasis is planning a big birthday bash for next year to mark four decades at the market.
“My mum and dad started the ball rolling,” he said.
“They were just labourers and they thought ’let’s try some nuts at the Dandenong Market’.
“There was no one else selling nuts down here.”
They started with a few different nuts in shells, beans and pasta.
“I’ve been involved for the whole of the period,” Mr Vavasis said.
“I’d be there sort of interpreting and sourcing the product for them.
“Their English was not good back in the day.”
The Peanut Market range and customer base slowly grew.
Soon walnuts, cashews and almonds were on the shelves and now they’ve gone organic.
“We have a lot of organic flour and different types of flour,” he said.
“We have a range of the super foods – chia seeds, goji berries, inca berries.
“The latest craze we’re finding is the organic cacao. We’ve just sourced a supplier for that.”
They have a roaster on-site to prepare nuts fresh two or three times a week and they grind up almonds, cashews, hazel nuts and peanuts for nut butter free from preservatives and sugars.
“We do put a bit of effort into it,” Mr Vavasis said.
He regularly tracks down products customers request, with a little help from Google.
“Thank God for Google. I don’t know what I’d be without it,” he said.
Health kicks and TV cooking shows have people seeking more products than ever before.
“We brought in acai berries and powder for the first time,” he said.
“They come in asking for all sorts of crazy things.
“At least use something that we can get our hands on!”
Mr Vavasis said organic spices would be the next addition to the Peanut Market range.
“We haven’t had any of those before, they’ve been a bit tricky to source,” he said.
The Dandenong Market renovation over the past few years has given the stall a boost.
“It’s just come up Mickey Mouse,” he said.
And the feedback from customers is positive.
“They tell us it’s up there with the Queen Vic and they’d certainly come back,” Mr Vavasis said.