Two Saanich businesswomen are working to bring local food, wine and community to the suburbs through a European-inspired grocery store and restaurant hybrid.
Opening next spring in Broadmead Village Shopping Centre, Niche Grocerant will combine “food retail with a dine-in component” according to co-owners Ceri Barlow and Jami Wood.
“We are not a grocery store,” said Barlow. Rather, Niche Grocerant will offer a variety of foods and ingredients in dine-in, take-out and cook-at-home format.
Barlow, who has studied wine extensively, and Wood, who has a background in retail, live in the area and after a trip to The Farmer’s Daughter last winter realized their neighbourhood needed something similar — a space to create community and celebrate all the local foods the Island has to offer.
“We felt like there was a need there that wasn’t being met,” said Barlow.
The co-owners have now taken over a 1,132 square foot space the Dig This gardening store used to fill, and are in the midst of partnering with local restaurants and producers.
For Barlow and Wood, COVID-19 has opened up an opportunity — restaurants that were previously too busy to take on new ventures now have more time on their hands and a need to fill a financial gap.
Already, The Courtney Room, Pagliacci’s, Spinnaker’s, Zambri’s, Dumpling Drop, Village Butcher, The Whole Beast and Finest at Sea, have agreed to provide prepped products.
Local farms will supply seasonal ingredients and local breweries and wineries will provide rotating drinks.
Wood said COVID-19 reminded people that food security is an issue on the Island. With sudden shortages of certain ingredients and supplies “people became aware of having to take care of where their food comes from,” she said.
Barlow and Wood said they want a significant part of Niche Grocerant to be about educating people on where their food comes from and the importance of buying local.
The two have all sorts of plans for their space, including a plant trading library and an outdoor patio.
Ultimately, Barlow and Wood said they want to create a space with a “neighbourhood vibe” like they’ve experienced in cafe-restaurant hybrids when visiting Croatia and Italy.
“It’s about promoting all the people that we love. We really believe in what’s possible here,” said Barlow.
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