A small, locally-run grocery store or market can be a lifesaver in more ways than one. In addition to being a quick stop for eggs and milk, independent grocers can be a community hub in a food desert, reflecting and supporting the neighbourhoods around them. As grocery prices and issues of food security continue to rise, these smaller grocers across Canada are offering something unique — from chef-based initiatives to donation-based delivery. Here are 10 local businesses that are changing the grocery game.
Black Market Provisions, Winnipeg, Manitoba
In Winnipeg, MB, couple Angela Farkas and Alana Fiks (or A+A, as they’re commonly known) run a “small but mighty” combination retail and food emporium that offers local food products, trinkets, housewares and a made-in-house menu that’s updated each morning. They also work closely with the local LGBTQ+ community and support local makers.
Lukes, Calgary, Alberta
There have been three generations of Lukes—Jim, Bob and Gareth—behind the counter at this combination drug store, grocer, cafe and vinyl record store in Calgary, AB. From its first location in 1951, Lukes now has a flagship and other locations, but still collaborates with local businesses and supports artists from the community. There’s also soft serve being spun in addition to turntables, and each month features a different local business and flavour (churro soft serve, anyone?)
Riverside Grocery, Whitehorse, Yukon
A family-owned business for four decades, Riverside Grocery in Whitehorse has had three generations of family members working in the store. They carry local products from farms around the Yukon, and work to foster sustainable business practices (they phased out plastic in favour of reusable or compostable alternatives many years ago), as well as donating to the local humane society and food bank. Local artists Ben Gribbon and Emma Barr helped them design grocery tote bags, sales from which go to local charities (and a caribou edition also helps support the porcupine caribou herd).
Saint John City Market, Saint John, New Brunswick
For those who want a plethora of choice, the Saint John City Market — a national historic site and the oldest continuing farmers’ market in Canada — has a taste of a variety of smaller local vendors. From scratch-made fatayers at LebanOn on the Go to kimbap at Kim’s Korean Food, the market is a community hub with over 20 vendors.
SaskMade Marketplace, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
In Saskatoon, SaskMade Marketplace proudly promotes all things Saskatchewan to locals and beyond, sourcing from local farms for ingredients from bison to the ubiquitous Saskatoon berry. Owner Emily Li Yan tries to educate consumers about responsible and sustainable agriculture with this farm-to-fork initiative.
Fredericton Boyce Farmer’s Market, Fredericton, New Brunswick
There are over 200 vendors at the 70-year-old Fredericton Boyce Farmer’s Market, so it’s easy to get lost on a lazy Saturday morning here. Stop by Jenna’s Nut Free Dessertery, a 100 percent Indigenous and female-owned restaurant, where Jenna White serves up bannock breakfast sandwiches. Since 2019, she grew her business from a single stall at the market to a wholesale business, sit-down restaurant and catering business. She has also brought in Indigenous creators and artisans for an Indigenous Night Market, which held its second annual event last December.
Local Source Market, Halifax, Nova Scotia
With two locations, independently owned Local Source Market not only spotlights products from the surrounding areas, but looks to give back. Owners Krista Armstrong & Sean Gallagher focus on sustainability and reducing food waste by selling food that is no longer market ready back to their kitchen or bakery and turned into sauces, baked goods or other prepared items. They also donate food that doesn’t sell to the Parker Street Food Bank.
Founders Food Hall & Market, Charlottetown PEI
At The Founders Food Hall & Market — built to be a cultural and community hub for artisans and creators in Charlottetown, PEI — there’s a variety of vendors repurposing the island’s best ingredients into different forms to take home. Fehrat Dal at Dal’s Potato Bar serves up Turkish street food staple kumpir, stuffing local PEI lobster into a PEI potato.
Conserva, Montreal, QC
When it comes to knowing good ingredients, chefs are often ahead of the game. In Montreal, Massimo Vincelli and John Barros opened their take on a neighbourhood local: a chef-driven specialty grocer and restaurant, selling meat, produce and beer from Quebec as well as house-made items such as charcuterie and pasta from the onsite open kitchen space and grocery store.
Cheese Boutique, Toronto, ON
Owner Afrim Pristine won’t be a stranger to regular Food Network viewers — his show Cheese: A Love Story chronicles the Maitre Fromager’s fascination with worldly cheeses he finds in his travels. Visitors to The Cheese Boutique can poke into a cheese cave and buy everything from house-made ice cream from the bottega to ordering a wedding cake made out of the store’s best cheese offerings.