Humans of St Ives – Sasha Vallaydam, manager IGA St Ives
How long have you been with IGA, and at St Ives?
My wife and I started the business at the end of 2012. I had a mentor from the Chriss Family [who manage five IGA branches on the Upper North Shore] that assisted us to set up the business, as this was a complete career change for both of us. My wife Sarai was involved in customer service for Blackmores Pharmaceutical and I was in a family international furniture removal business.
Did you grow up or live in St Ives? What do you love about the area?
I grew up in Collaroy on the Northern Beaches and was originally born in South Africa. My family migrated to Australia in 1980 and this 5 year old really didn’t have much connection with South Africa. I am of South African Indian origin and my wife is a Kiwi. I support the Wallabies and she naturally supports the All Blacks! My almost 20 years of marriage has been tough to watch from a Rugby point of view!
I rediscovered my South African culture and was also introduced to a number of other cultures in our area. The melting pot of St Ives has been a great experience for our little store. Everyone has been welcoming and always supporting our business to ensure we remain in the area. We didn’t really think at first that St Ives has a community. We were so wrong! And after setting up the St Ives Community page on Facebook we have experienced a lot of love for our business, along with other businesses. We have helped the community see what a beautiful environment we live in and it has helped us to be more connected.
What's great about IGA St Ives? Why should people shop there?
People have choices and we should not only be supportive of our business, but be supportive of the Jonty’s from Stanley Street, and the Growers down the road from us. In 2018/19 it was a tough year for a number of retail food outlets and we can’t survive without the support. Sure you will pay a little more for smaller retail services due to economies of scale, however we still offer over 1300 specials a week in alcohol and grocery. We support our locals by offering free delivery within St Ives for over $30 spend.
We have a number of our elderly customers that just want to have a chat to order, so we offer this service. We provide a lot of pre-ordered meat and bakery goods for the local Jewish Community. They have supported us and spread the word in the community during holiday commemorative events.
We will also do our best to locate odd items for customers. Another great reason to shop with us is to avoid the large crowds, listen to some funky music in store, have a laugh with our beautiful staff, and simply enjoy the experience of shopping again.
Have you got any tips for buying fresh produce?
Seasonal fruit is always the best choice. It’s a tough one when we have customers that request plums when they are out of season and imported. We prefer not to have these fruit from overseas, however if the demand is there we will happily bring them in for customer. A good tip for avocadoes is not to put green hard avocadoes in the fridge as they will brown on the inside. You can wait until the avocadoes ripen darker and then put in the fridge to give longevity.
What is the strangest/most amazing thing that has happened in the store?
Throughout the years, we have had the best staff and some are still with us from 2012. We have a lot of siblings that have continued the tradition and joined our family. Even after leaving, a number of them still come in to inform us what they are doing in life and convert from staff family to friends. The most amazing thing about our store is mentoring young students through issues that they may not feel comfortable talking to parents about and helping them through life. I can give you a number of funny stories and funny customers, but I think helping kids has been amazing. Not all have been successful, but without doubt the majority are some of the best staff in the area.