In 2017, Tessa Peach opened Frances Nation in the Arts Centre in Ōtautahi Christchurch, stocking New Zealand-made products by makers large and small. Now, she’s opened a grocer in the ground-floor space underneath the original store. “Buying New Zealand-made can often mean better quality,” says Peach, “but it’s also about choosing to connect with each other through trade, connecting to our geography, our histories and our natural resources.”
Who was Frances Nation and why did you name your store after her?
Frances Nation was my Gran. She passed away a few years ago, but her lessons stay with me: buy things that are well made and will last decades. And what a great name!
You’ve opened a grocer downstairs – tell us a bit about it.
We opened Frances Nation Grocer just before Christmas. We showcase some of our favourite New Zealand-made pantry items and also offer coffee, real-fruit ice cream and simple lunch options. That’s alongside pantry staples such as flour, pickles, oils and vinegars, we stock fresh bread, pastries, eggs and seasonal fresh produce.
What was the idea?
We wanted to create a complementary space to Frances Nation Home that also highlights a variety of talented creators across the country. These are small-to-medium-scale food producers who work super hard to create quality products. Some are very established and some are only a few years old. We have, of course, snuck in a few of our old Kiwi favourites like Marmite and liquorice allsorts.
Why should we buy local?
There has been a recent resurgence in supporting local business, in response to the economic impacts of the pandemic, which is great to see. Further to this, we have an incredible diversity of excellent design and artisan craft in Aotearoa, which deserves recognition. As this market grows, we can expect to see a lot more New Zealand-made products being developed, and for craft and product design to become more viable as a career.
At Frances Nation Home, how do you define a product as useful?
It should be fit for purpose and ideally solve a problem. For me, this is about ignoring gimmicky objects and choosing those that are timeless because they offer a quality experience, utility and longevity. These attributes inform the design and make them beautiful and valuable. Of course, a product becomes more useful if it is also addressing larger environmental or social problems, which many of our products do.
What do you look for in a product?
I tend to favour products that use natural materials such as stone, wood or flax, but I also work with manufacturers who spin metal or press steel to create mixing bowls or toolboxes. I like a simple clever design that lasts longer and performs better than similar items on the market. I lean towards things that are traditional and lasting, and particularly enjoy working with people who are highly knowledgeable and focussed on their craft.