08.04.2016

A new local produce store​

"AS NATURAL AS POSSIBLE" IMPORTS FRUIT AND VEGETABLES FROM GUADELOUPE AND SELLS THEM IN ITS MARIGOT STORE.

Why import fruit and vegetables from the United States or Europe when we can buy Guadeloupian produce? Claude Jeffers and Sylvie Hodge opened “As natural as possible” on 24 March on the Marina Royale in front of the theater entrance.”It all started with an ordinary discussion” explained the co-manager. Last May, Claude and his wife were on vacation at the home of Sylvie and her husband in Guadeloupe. One morning, while he was getting some bread, he stopped to buy some pineapples on the side of the road. ”I bought 2 small ones for 2 €. And what’s more, they were delicious. I said to myself: ‘I want that back home!´ he said. He shared his surprise with his friends. They realised that the idea was worth trying and started talking about it everyday. The idea grew little by little. 

For family reasons, Sylvie and her family moved to Saint-Martin in August. While trying to feed her children with something else besides starchy foods, she was then faced with the problem raised by Claude: fresh produce is mostly imported from the United States or Europe and is expensive. Whereas Guadeloupe is very close (250 km). She, who had always been a store owner, contacted friends in the business. Since their respective spouses already had a job, Claude and she decided to become partners. Soon afterwards, they found a vacant store at the Marina Royale which the owner was kind enough to reserve for them for nine months. Like many new entrepreneurs on the island, they were helped by Initiative Saint-Martin Active. They renovated the store premises and their friend from Guadeloupe, Jimmy Sheik, came especially from India to decorate the store walls.

NOT ORGANIC BUT REASONABLE

The two managers of “As Natural as Possible" work directly with six different producers with whom they place orders a week in advance. Fruit and vegetables are shipped by boats twice a week in refrigerated containers. A first boat leaves on Wednesday from Guadeloupe and arrives Thursday evening in Saint-Martin after passing through Saint-Barthélemy. The second delivery starts on Thursday evening and arrives on Friday afternoon.

Most of their produce is from Guadeloupe, although some of it only passes through there and comes from Europe. Claude is categorical: "In our store, there is nothing from the United States or Santo Domingo, and there never will be". Soon, they will sell more fruit and vegetables produced directly in Saint-Martin. They are developing their collaboration with small farms in Saint-Martin, like the Colombier gardens for whom they already sell some fruit and vegetables (and eggs, starting in a few weeks).

They prefer to bank on local rather than organic products. "It’s very expensive and would have made us lose some of our business" explained Claude. But they are working with producers who do not use pesticides and use "reasonable farming" practices, like Sylvie said. Flavor, friendliness, and advice, with already more than 150 friends on Facebook, Anap seems to respond to a real need. And Claude does not try to hide their ambition: “Our goal is to take over the fresh produce market in Saint-Martin.”

Fanny Fontan

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