The first thing Steve McClean did when he took over Alberton Four Square was renovate the staff kitchen and bathrooms. “That’s the approach we have,” he told SupermarketNews. “Happy staff means happy customers.” Of course, a new bathroom wasn’t the only change. Alberton Four Square was transformed earlier this year into Fresh Collective by New World, a unique opportunity for the owner only just getting back into the Foodstuffs fold.

A baker by trade, McClean and Donna, his wife of 25 years, got their first taste of the fmcg lifestyle when they co-owned the Paihia Four Square with Donna’s parents between 1998 and 2000. After that, the McCleans moved into the café scene, then chocolate manufacturing and retailing. Over the past fifteen years,  they have owned and started five different businesses and stores. “I completed my bakery apprenticeship out of school – that’s my only formal training,” said McClean. “But having been in retail and hospitality for over two decades, I’ve learnt everything I know through doing and networking.”

In 2014 McClean decided to get back into Foodstuffs and trained for several months as part of the owner/operator programme before securing Four Square Alberton in November 2015. “It makes sense for us,” he said. “We are foodies, we love impressing and inspiring customers, business is our thing and retail is a great challenge for us.” Six months after taking over the site, the renovations began, and Fresh Collective was born. For McClean, though, the challenge was exciting.

“When it comes down to it, Donna and I have the vision and inspiration for things and we make them happen together,” he explained. “I think our partnership and how complementary our skills are, really work well and means we are always pushing for improvement, questioning how and why we do things, and moving things forward for the benefit of all involved.”

McClean is always looking for ways to make the customer shopping experience easier or more inspiring, whether that be through bringing new lines, reviewing the range or simply changing things up in-store. “At the end of the day, we are only as good as our customers think we are. Having a foodie and hospitality background definitely helps us in this, as we know the importance of customer service and customer experience from being customers ourselves.”

He’s uncertain about what the future holds, but wouldn’t mind the challenge of taking on a larger New World or PAK’NSAVE. However, whatever it involves would revolve around his family – Donna and his two daughters, Jess and Maddie – and also looking at how it would benefit his staff and others in his life and business.

“Standing back and seeing that you’ve made a positive difference in people’s lives is always pretty cool,” he said. “For us, it really comes down to family – that’s what matters most, and that’s why we are doing this.”