Gaia Wholefoods in St Margarets Road, near St Margarets is an old local favourite. We talked to its owner/manager Dave Kennington.
Would you tell us a bit about the history of Gaia Wholefoods and how long you have been running it?
I opened the shop in November 1983 with my partner. When I was a student I was involved in a lot of green activism and I was brought up in the countryside – the shop is an integration of all these things that mean something to me, the connectedness of all things. When I met my partner we agreed to start a shop together. We believed that organic agriculture was kinder to the planet and would better sustain a countryside that was pleasing and satisfying to visit, live in and work in.
Would you like to tell our readers more about what Gaia offers?
We sell wholefoods – very little is refined but you’ll find some tofu. I’m not great at self-promotion but I do my utmost to stock products that are 95% vegan and without added sugar. 80% of our products are organic, including all of the vegetables which are supplied by a wholesaler we’ve worked with since opening – a small company based in Melton Mowbray, Leicester (who started out as the UK’s first manufacturer of tofu based in Archway, London in the 1970s). They source from British smallholdings who are well established soil association organic growers. We source our other products from as near as possible, the furthest being from France, Spain or Holland, and nothing is airfreighted.
The shop was set up to help make these types of food more available at a time when the idea of ‘healthy eating’ was not widespread. Times have changed, and awareness of how agriculture affects the planet, and of how what we eat affects our wellbeing, has increased greatly. Our shop helps make these choices clearer and simpler for those who are concerned.
What are your plans for the future?
We’ll continue the shop’s aim to sell foods and supplements that are useful for helping the body to maintain and care for itself as well as possible. I want customers and employees to feel nourished and feel wholesomeness.