Much of the west side of downtown Ottawa is a food desert. Consolidation has been happening in the grocery business for a long time. Individual vegetable mongers and butchers gave way to the one-stop shopping convenience of the groceteria, then the larger grocery store, and most recently the Superstore, whether in big-box malls or spread across the urban fabric.
The resulting decline and disappearance of the smaller stores inevitably leaves some greater distance between the remaining or new grocery outlets. This space is sometimes called a food desert. Like any ecosystem, it also offers a niche for the nimble and specialized.
Walking along Somerset just a few doors west of Rochester I found a small raincloud of hope. Urban Grocery and Fine Foods has just opened. I talked to Jeanette about her hopes for the store.
As befitting the first day open status, there were more package goods than fresh. But there was fresh bread, dairy, and fruit. She plans to expand these departments as sales increase and turnover justifies bringing in more perishables. It’s the old chicken and egg situation. Speaking of which, eggs were reasonably priced. The supplying dairy is Cochrane’s which is apparently reputed to be more creamy than the mass-market dairies.
The store decor had a variety of “retro” fixtures:
The store stocks are variety of goods with an emphasis on local suppliers, fair trade, gluten-free, organics, etc. Obviously, she cannot compete with the giants on price, but the store is big enough to have a good selection of stuffs for the speciality market and the in-between grocery runs.
Her main outside sign isn’t yet up, but the store is easy to spot by the colourful window paintings.
Outside on the sidewalk I spotted a Zodiac Mouse twitching his nose in anticipation of a morsel of cheese. For Mr Mouse and the residents in the area, the drought may be ending.