Story by Hailey Brooks
Photography by Jessica Dybenko
A typical visit to a convenience store is meant to be, well, convenient. A customer walks in, makes their purchase, and walks out without having to shut their car off. The formulaic layout of a convenience store is true to its name, but a recent trip to Mary’s Mart has proven to satisfy more than a craving for candy, lottery tickets and beef jerky. Perched on the top of a hill in the east end of Toronto exists an old convenience store that has repurposed the meaning of convenience by adding shelves of local food next to its confectionary counter and everyday products.
Mary’s Mart is a brand new passion project for owner, Elliot de Launay. It’s grand opening was less than a year ago and the store is already gaining lots of community support. Prior to its opening, Elliot conducted market research in the community by knocking on doors and asking neighbours what they would like to see the old run-down corner store turn into? Alas, the birth of Mary’s Mart.
Old fridges full of sodas are replaced with locally grown fruits and vegetables. Cold basins and freezers have been added to sell local meat from a Thorn Hill farmer. High quality bone broth and chicken broth by Broya and soups by Toronto Gourmet are such a hot seller that the team is considering eliminating its generic brands.
The store has truly become a community initiative. Neighbouring businesses are partnering with Mary’s Mart by selling their goods in store. Currently, a woman whose business is down the street sells prepared meals such as lasagnas and pies while a local and well loved sushi restaurant has expressed an interest in selling prepared sushi to customers.
One of most important contributing factors to Mary’s Mart’s success, is their online presence. Through Facebook, customers and vendors can message the team directly and give input on what they’d like to see in stores. Since this is a pilot project, no idea is too big or too small which is why Mary’s Mart introduced online ordering and home deliveries to their roster of services.
Customers can order a wider selection of food and everyday essentials with the option of picking up in store or having the products delivered straight to their homes. Being only 700 square feet can seem limiting compared to shopping in a typical grocery store, so online is where Elliot hopes to grow by being able to offer more than what is available in store.
Convenience at Mary’s Mart is unconventional in the most progressive way. Elliot’s passion of bringing local and affordable food into the city while fusing it with the technology of delivering groceries to your doorstep is a relief to this neighbourhood whose closest grocery store is a trek to get to without a vehicle. Elliot hopes to take the cookie cutter model of his first store in the east end and roll it out through other areas of Toronto.
For now, you can find the one and only Mary’s Mart located at the top of the hill on 437 Jones Avenue in Toronto or you can visit them online at https://www.marysmart.com.