Mystery shoppers have revealed Cessnock is home to one of the best greengrocers in NSW and the ACT.
Wollombi Road Providore won the Service Excellence Award in the greengrocer category at the 2018 Sydney Markets Fresh Awards.
The awards are judged by a panel of industry experts as well as the feedback of mystery shoppers who visited the businesses over a six-month period.
Nominees are judged on a number of areas including store appearance, customer service, product knowledge, produce quality, range and freshness.
Mystery shoppers’ feedback accounts for 75 percent of the score, with the remaining 25 percent based on industry evaluation.
Wollombi Road Providore was the only regional finalist in the greengrocer category, alongside two businesses from Sydney and one from the ACT.
Store owners Michael Jenness and Lisa Cussen set out with a “back-to-basics” approach when they opened the business in June 2015.
“We have a strong focus on local produce, straight from the farm,” Mr Jenness said.
“We wanted to show people what good quality produce should taste like.”
Their customer base now ranges from local residents, to tourists, to some of the best restaurants in the Hunter Valley.
Along with providing fresh, seasonal produce, they are proud to be an independent business, keeping their money in the town and supporting the local community.
Mr Jenness and Ms Cussen said they were “shocked” and “speechless” when their business was announced as the winner at the awards on Wednesday night.
“It was a total surprise – it really puts us up there,” Mr Jenness said.
“To be noticed, and to be recognised, for quietly going about what we’re doing is awesome.”
Florists, wholesalers, produce growers, flower growers and bloggers were also recognised at the awards, which were presented at The Star, Sydney.
Sydney Markets' Fresh Awards manager Sue Dodd said the calibre of this year's finalists were among the awards' finest.
"Customer service, quality and value are imperative to business, but for small business, it is at the heart of its survival,” Ms Dodd said.
"Each of our winners have exceeded the expectations of both the industry and the general public in each of these areas.
“It is a testament to their continued hard work and dedication to their trade.”
Sydney Markets CEO Brad Latham said the Fresh Awards are a great source of pride for Sydney Markets, as it provides the opportunity to recognise the hard work of greengrocers, florists and growers from NSW and the ACT.
"Whether family-run, a partnership between friends or a sole trader, independent businesses are the heart and soul of their local communities,” Mr Latham said.