We Shop Local, Too! by Paul Seale
When ATN Access for Persons with Disabilities opened The Old East Village Grocer last year, it became Canada’s first social enterprise grocer, and also London’s smallest full-service grocery store with all the challenges of being a small independent business.
“We rose to the occasion in each area,” says store manager Matt Swenson, “including a full-service delicatessen, but we just didn’t have room for a butcher. Luckily, the Old East Village is home to the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker, right? So we looked for a local solution.” Enter Mitchell Carter who operates The Butcher’s Blend at the Western Fair Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market. With his fiancée Kelly White, Carter now supplies the meat program at the OEV Grocer, twice a week delivering free range organic chicken, a variety of meat cuts, double-smoked bacon, and his own trademark sausages, all vacuum-sealed.
In business for three years now, Carter and White met as kids when they both worked in family-run food trucks traveling with a carnival. “Mitchell was the carnival brat then,” White says, “but he learned to love food.” You can see that love of food this week in Mitchell’s Peruvian chocolate sausages, pork sausage made with blueberries, honey, artisanal grape jelly and 80% chocolate, a twice a year treat. You can also see the fun of the new enterprise on his face when he serves customers or drops meat off at the store. “This is a super opportunity for us,” Carter says. “We get our products and our name in front of new people seven days a week, and it also helps us serve our own customers better. We love telling our regulars that they don’t have to wait for market days anymore to get The Butcher’s Blend.”
The OEV Grocer has also developed partnerships with other local start-ups and social enterprises – For the Love of Laundry, Urban Oven, and Flanatics among others. “We find our customers are more and more intentional about where they spend their money,” Swenson says. “They love that the meats from The Butcher’s Blend are hormone-free and unenhanced, and they love that they are supporting local entrepreneurs, too. We feel the same way.”