The Mustard Seed, Hamilton's first cooperative, non-profit grocery store, opened its doors for business this past Friday.
The store opening has been eagerly awaited by many Hamiltonians, but especially by the many volunteers like myself who spent countless hours over the past two years working to help make this happen!
The store was abuzz all opening weekend, with over 1000 folks dropping by to check the place out and shop for tasty local treats.
While there are still a lot of rough edges to smooth out, there are plenty of little details that give the store a personal, local touch.
Shown below: the produce section (large photo) and (from top to bottom) the barn doors made by a Mustard Seed member from reclaimed wood; a lineup of shoppers waiting to pay for their groceries, and the whimsical sign for the restroom.
One of my very favourite design touches at the store is all the photos of local food producers hanging on the walls. What a great way to bring to life exactly where our food is coming from and the people who are growing it for us!
Of course, I was also thrilled to see my book nestled on the shelves at the co-op. And particularly pleased to see it tucked in beside the More-with-Less cookbook, one of my longtime favourites. I grabbed this photo from the Mustard Seed's Facebook page - there are a ton more photos there if you want to see the whole process of creating a grocery store.
It was really fun to walk around the store and be able to say "I helped put up those shelves", "I helped paint that" and on and on.
Of course, while the look of the store is important, the food is the main reason for the co-op's existence. Over the coming weeks and months I think the selection of products and producers will evolve quite considerably with lots of input from members. At the moment there is a fair amount of product purchased through distributors; as we connect with more smaller local producers I expect there will likely be a shift towards carrying more items from these types of businesses.
I'm most excited about being able to easily source more local and/or organic produce to supplement what I grow myself. I'll now have a consistent source for organic lemons, something I've often had trouble tracking down elsewhere. And the organic green onions I bought on opening day were a heck of a lot fresher than the ones I've been able to buy at other local grocery stores (not to mention I was able to get a smaller bunch so I can use them up before they spoil!) As we move into spring and the local growing season begins, the produce section is sure to be the highlight of the store.
Do you have a local co-op grocery store? What's your favourite thing about it?
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