Taste Nature owners moving on to 'next chapter'

Taste Nature owners Rayna and Mark Dickson have sold their High St business after 15 years. PHOTO...
Taste Nature owners Rayna and Mark Dickson have sold their High St business after 15 years. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
For as long as they can remember, Mark and Rayna Dickson's food for thought has been organic produce.

But now that they have sold their Taste Nature organic food store, eatery and kitchen in lower High St, their thoughts have turned to: "What should we do now"?

After 15 years at Taste Nature, the Dunedin couple are handing over the organic food mantle to a new generation - business partners Tracey Loughran and Clinton Chambers.

Mr and Mrs Dickson said two decades ago, they had no intention of being in organic food retail.

Mr Dickson was a chef by trade, but left the profession after becoming disillusioned with the hospitality industry.

The couple had a small market garden in Waitati, and because of the increasing demand for organic produce, Mr Dickson focused his attention on growing organic vegetables.

The connection to Taste Nature came when he started selling produce to the store.

And then in 2003, when the couple saw great potential in expanding the business, they bought it.

"That's a part of the reason that we moved into the store," he said.

"We really wanted to expand on organic local food in Dunedin, to continue what Taste Nature was, and expand on it."

They moved the business from Moray Pl to its existing site on High St in 2009, where it has grown from a "small corner dairy" to a "medium-sized grocery store".

They also established The Eatery on site in 2011 - a cafe with a focus on good food rather than coffee - and last year, they purchased an EV van for their new home delivery service.

Since then, the business has become a community hub for all things organic in Dunedin.

Mrs Dickson said their aim had been to develop "a truly sustainable business".

"It's about looking after the people, the environment, the community, our staff - it's a whole systems approach to business that was part of our philosophy.

"It was natural for us to move into this sort of business.

"It wasn't like we were business people looking for business. We saw this as an extension of what we believed in."

The couple said they had grown the business as much as they could, and believed it was time for someone else to carry the mantle.

The new co-owners made an offer on the shop, and Mr and Mrs Dickson accepted - not because it was an offer they could not refuse, but because they shared Mr and Mrs Dickson's strong ethos on minimising packaging and providing a return and refund system for their reusable containers.

"They will take the business to the next stage of its journey," Mrs Dickson said.

"We've taken it as far as we can - we've reached our peak."

Mr Dickson said they would now have "some down time".

"We're going to reflect, and at the same time, look forward to our next chapter in life.

"We're still too young to retire," he said.

What that "next chapter" will be though was still to be determined.

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