Ardwick businessman’s take on retail and BAME representation

Health has always been a passion of Raphael Swaby’s, but working for corporations like Holland and Barrett’s felt ‘too commercial’ for him.

In March 2019, he set up ARMR, a health food store located in the heart of Ardwick.

The store is many different things, but for Swaby, it was an opportunity for him to create his idea of ‘what retail should look like.’

This was demonstrated earlier this year, when during the pandemic, ARMR began delivering free plant-based meals to the elderly and isolated residents living in Ardwick, Longsight, Gorton and other areas of South Manchester.

“There’s a niche to what we do, in that we make Jamaican plant-based foods,” He said.

“And we were hearing stories at the start of lockdown about people who were looking for food and couldn’t get anything that suited them culturally.”

It’s important for Swaby that the cultural element of ARMR is not forgotten.

“There’s a huge problem in the black and ethnic minority community where, once they change to a vegan diet, the options are limited. It is important for me that people can still identify with their culture through our food,” he said. 

ARMR is now looking to host workshops for Black History Month and have put out calls for inspiring people to help ‘facilitate education on black British history.’

Swaby wants the workshops to shine a light on the “positive side” of black history: “I was only taught about slavery. There is positives to black history, like our contributions to medicine and mathematics.

“There is black heroes that we don’t hear about, unless it’s the Black Panther movie.”

Beyond this year, Swaby hopes to engage with the community even more, but the long-term plan is to set up stores in cities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds.

“I don’t want them to be set up in the affluent areas though,” he said. “I want them to be in areas like Ardwick, where we can provide options and space to people who are making their own products.

“If you have a dream, it’s hard to get it out there. You can’t approach the manager in a big store and get your product out on the shelf. I want to showcase local talent.” 

Anybody interested in learning more about ARMR can find them on Facebook (ARMR Store) and on Instagram (@armrstore). 

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22 October 2020 12:51 pm

Great article Ben 👏👏

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