Looking around it’s difficult to put a tag on this Ardwick store. It’s a health food shop, plant-based café, workspace with free wi-fi, art gallery and workshop venue.
“We’re multi-dimensional,” smiles owner Raph, “everything ties together. We do yoga classes at the back, we serve health food, coffees, smoothies, we even display local art… it all ties in with improving the wellbeing of the local area.”
Today’s lunch menu looks amazing: lentil, chick pea and yam stew with bulgar wheat and purple slaw.
On a new parade of shops opposite the O2 Apollo, with a Chinese restaurant and minimarket as neighbours, the ARMR Store has been opened for nearly a year. “Your shop wouldn’t look out of place in the Northern Quarter or Chorlton,” I suggest.
“We might do a lot better there,” says Raph, “but max profit is not the basis of the business. I set up my store here because I want to serve this community.”
Raph was brought up in Longsight where he and his brothers would spend weekends helping in his dad’s bike shop on the A6. “We’d work in the back, mending punctures or cleaning out the stores. We didn’t always get paid but looking back I can see where we reaped the rewards.”
“And was that experience influential?”
“Massively. It taught me that you don’t always get a financial return on the efforts you put in but it is still necessary to work hard to give you every chance of success. Dad has had that shop for nearly 30 years and I remember a 10-year stretch when he never took a single holiday. He’d work seven days a week and only closed on Christmas Day.”
I’ve already noticed the ARMR Store is open every day: “And you’re carrying on in that tradition?”
“Pretty much,” says Raph. “I’ve seen him do it and I know what it takes. Both he and my Mum have been hugely influential. She’s always been very caring, always giving without expecting to receive.”
“So the work ethic of your dad and the charitable nature of your mum have come together in what you do here at ARMR?”
“If I’m being completely honest,” Raph says, “when I opened it was more of a business venture with a community aspect. As I’ve got going I’ve realised there’s more I want to do for the community so it’s flipped on its head slightly. Now it’s more of a community venture with a business aspect.”
The back room, Raph tells me, is currently used for yoga classes and a regular men’s meditation event. “It’s available to any community group that’d like to use it,” he says, “I’m keen to put more things on for local people.”
“And where do you see the business in five years time?” I ask.
Raph already has that planned out. “I’d like to open one of these stores in maybe five or six different areas around the country. Not in the trendy areas of town but in areas similar to Ardwick: local stores supporting local communities.”
2 Polygon Street, Ardwick, M13 9SG. 0161 273 2335