To the delight of local producers, Iitan lähipuoti is being run in Saarijärvi by a two-person team. Customers appreciate the local products.
Mira Koivunen and Miila Sopanen run the local food shop Iitan lähipuoti in Saarijärvi. Lähipuoti opened its doors at Easter 2013. In the past 18 months, they have become familiar with running a shop and all the bureaucracy involved. Nevertheless, they have not regretted their decision to start running a business. It all began at the Christmas market held in Saarijärvi in 2012.
– There were products on sale from local producers. At the time, the emphasis was on crafts and there was only a small amount of food on sale. Lots of people were asking where they could get more from in the future. We latched onto the idea and drew up a plan, Mira Koivunen says.
The budding entrepreneurs naturally decided to sell crafts but both of them had a desire to expand the food side. The final impetus to start the business came about precisely due to the growth in demand for local food. The pair had thought about starting a business before but it was in the local market square that it found its final shape.
Koivunen and Sopanen got to know the products sold by Iitan lähipuoti and their producers at the Christmas market. They also already knew people beforehand who they asked to join them.
– When word started to spread during the spring, many producers came to us themselves to offer their products. Today we bring in new products ourselves to some extent but mainly producers offer us their products for sale, Koivunen says.
The business has found its customer base that values local products. The producers are also pleased that the shop has given them a channel through which they can sell. Hand-made, durable and high quality products attract appreciation.
– It’s true that the current economic situation has an impact but we have faith that times are changing. Saarijärvi is a small place, so you do sometimes wonder whether there will be enough customers. Fortunately, we are a place with lots of holiday cottages, so the profits from summer and Christmas see us through the quiet times, says Koivunen.
Shopping online too
Running a shop also means the pair have had to learn the twists and turns of the law. The regulations for running the food side are particularly stringent and precise. This means that they can’t satisfy all the wishes of their customers instantly.
– People ask us to sell lots of things, including raw milk, but the rules don’t let us. On the food side especially, people have lots of things they would like to be able to buy, Koivunen says.
In the future, they aim to develop the shop business. There is an online shopping project in progress across the whole of Saarijärvi with an online shop set to open before Christmas.
– We’ve also cautiously thought about our own production and what the two of us could make. How to grow suitable products under the Iita name. We’ve got lots of plans, let’s see if we manage to realise them, Koivunen laughs.
Text: Saara Kärki
Photo from www.facebook.com/iitanlahipuoti