Southbank family-run business celebrated through Lord Mayor award

Southbank family-run business celebrated through Lord Mayor award
Kaylah Joelle Baker

Small business owners are being celebrated for their determination and contribution to the city’s culture and economic prosperity through the 2022 Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards.

Previously known as the Lord Mayor’s Commendations Awards, the awards recognise 49 Melbourne business owners who have been operating within the city for more than 10, 20 and 40 years.

Recognised for their commitment of serving the city for the past 18 years and the only Southbank nominated business is IGA Express Southbank, something owner Jeff Harper said was nice as small businesses can often “get forgotten”.

What makes the IGA Express so special is that the family-run business is not only a place to quickly get your grocery needs, but it is also a store built on creating connections within the community.

“We have locals coming in that we probably see around five or six times a week and they become like extended family,” Mr Harper said.

“Most of the customers we see we know by first name, and they let us know what is happening in their lives. It’s almost like a meeting hub.”

This special and unique aspect of the IGA Express store became vitally important for the community in Southbank during lockdown, with the IGA being the one place some people could go to pick up necessities and see a friendly face.

Following those rough past couple of years, Mr Harper said the store’s success was all due to his “incredible staff”.

“They put up with a lot during COVID in the sense that they were there day in and day out. They really are the backbone that go us across the line,” he said.

As a city that is built on independent and unique stores, the council’s small business portfolio lead Cr Jason Chang said small businesses were critical to Melbourne’s economy and contributed to the buzz of the city.

“These awards are a celebration of many years of hard work, often building a small business from the ground up, establishing a loyal customer base and adding real flair and character,” Cr Chang said.

The Lord Mayor’s Small Business Awards have been celebrating the small businesses that make up the city since 2005, and each award night one small business takes home the top award.

This year’s award went to boutique wallpaper art and signage business Grafico Group for their innovation, creative marketing, sustainability initiatives and long-standing connection to the city. •

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