We’re in WA for the school holidays visiting family. Driving in from the airport Perth can seem all McMansion suburbs serviced by concrete tilt slab strip malls filled with brand outlets, a celebration of corporate growth culture. I didn’t expect to find much here until I was talking to my mother-in law, Jenny, about kimchi. You need to go to the kimchi shop she said. A kimchi shop in Perth? The next day Jenny took me down to a tilt slab strip mall in suburban Myaree to see She, and I begin to meet the people doing it human scale.
She is the owner of Perth Kimchi. Everyday She and her husband make traditional kimchi at her shop. In a simple display of stainless steel containers are pickled pakchoi, radishes, garlic, flavoured lotus, seasoned perilla, marinated beef, squid and pork. She has a devoted following and also supplies Chinese grocery stores and some restaurants but has no plans or desire to open another shop. Indeed her shop is about as simple and unadorned and unbranded as they come. The bare essentials – a display fridge, work benches, stainless steel containers and a register – it is beautifully what it is.
A few days later and we’re staying with friends in Albany. On Saturday morning I go grocery shopping with our friend Annie at the farmers market. Talking to Alby Van Dongen from Yard 86 dairy (that’s his son Marty holding their beautiful ice coffee in the pic) I ask him about his business, Marty explains he, Cindy and their three kids milk 14 jersey cows, process their milk on farm and sell it around Albany and Denmark. 14 cows!? I say not believing what I’m hearing Marty confirms it saying his herd has actually increased from the original 10. Alby wants a small dairy that’s gentle on the cows and the family. I ask him if he sells up in Perth. Completely uninterested Alby shakes his head, says he’s happy selling locally and has no problem moving all the milk they produce.
At another stall I meet the people who perhaps embody human scale business the most. From his card table covered in a few packs of oyster mushrooms you’d never suspect that Graham Upson was once the state’s largest white mushroom grower to a niche fungi business. Graham explains moving away from producing several tonnes a week means he can slow down and exercise his true love of plant biology, growing and sellingspeciality mushrooms at farmer’s markets and local outlets with the help of his daughter Lee.
Back home I talk to our Albany friends about this and examples flood forth of people choosing heart models over business models, family over franchise. Of house painters, cafe owners and craftspeople who can’t can’t be leveraged, outsourced overseas and packaged into a prospectus that will be fast-tracked to a share float. And though it’s plain that She, Alby and Graham are driving second hand utes and trucks and they’re not going to be buying investment properties with big profits you can see the pride in the things they make and you can feel the closeness they have with their kids and partners who work with them to make these nourishing things together.
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