Fresh food options coming soon to local convenience store

By Paula Roy –

Hintonburg’s status as one of Ottawa’s most eclectic food neighbourhoods is about to become even more entrenched, thanks to a tasty renovation that’s happening at the corner of Spadina and Gladstone. The former Corner Express convenience store is in the midst of being transformed into the Spadina Dina. New owner Mark McLaughlin has lots of delicious elements planned, including a deli, fish counter, more comprehensive grocery store and an impressive diner menu for breakfast, lunch and takeout.

The Corner Express is in the middle of a major transition. Exterior updates are also on the menu. Photo by Andrea Tomkins
The Corner Express is in the middle of a major transition. Exterior updates are also on the menu. Photo by Andrea Tomkins

Speak with Mark for just a minute or two and you’ll quickly discover that he is a man of boundless energy and talents. After an initial attempt to purchase the store six years ago, Mark was pleased to finally get his hands on it in mid-May of this year. He comes to this project with an extensive background in the food industry, having worked in the Arctic providing both chef and industrial medical services. Hopefully he won’t need to apply the latter skillset at the diner, which he is busily renovating both inside and out, having received some help during the first month from his parents and business partners, John and Barbara McLaughlin, who came from New Brunswick to assist. It’s a slow but steady process given that he’s keeping the store and lunch counter open while he does most of the work himself, but he anticipates being done by the end of summer.

For both his eat-in and takeout menus, Mark is planning a range of delicious items including gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and meat-based meals.

“I’ll likely offer a number of braised foods because they can be served up quickly and reheat well at home,” he explains. “My diner breakfasts will range from the very healthy like bowls with oats, grains, trail mix and fruit to the always-popular classic staples like bacon and eggs.”

Mark McLaughlin is bringing new food options to a former convenience store. Photo by Ellen Bond
Mark McLaughlin is bringing new food options to a former convenience store. Photo by Ellen Bond

A native of Miramichi, New Brunswick, Mark’s love of Maritime cuisine will also be evident.

“I am planning a mutton burger with rhubarb relish, genuine Maritime donairs (shaved meat with sweet garlic sauce on homemade buns) and traditional Acadian dishes like chicken fricot (a kind of stew) and poutine râpée (a boiled potato dumpling with a pork or chicken filling),” says Mark. “I am also thinking about northern Italian style osso bucco and I’m planning to make all my own breads, sweet loaves, cookies, potato chips and crackers.”

Mark is intrigued by the variety of food offerings throughout the Hintonburg and Wellington Village, and feels his spot will be a great complement to what’s already available. He is exploring the possibility of offering containerless options (meaning you bring your own dishes from home for him to fill) and is eager for input from the community to find out what additional aspects might be of interest. He’s even planning to make the Spadina Dina an arts hub, offering space for visual artists to show their work, for his burlesque-dancing employee to put on performances and for hosting musical events and avant-garde film screenings.

“I chose Ottawa as my new home because of the abundant opportunities for cycling and cross-country skiing, as well as its proximity to Gatineau Park,” says Mark, who lives not far from his new business. “I specifically chose this location because I just knew that with this neighbourhood’s village-like atmosphere, there would be lots of people ready to embrace the concept I want to deliver and who will help spread the word about the Spadina Dina.”

His hunch is proving correct already. Mark notes that many people who’ve popped into the shop to learn about the transformation have been extremely receptive to his plans.

“Everyone’s been so welcoming and kind. It’s really encouraging to see the number of customers stopping in for grocery items steadily growing. There are a lot of wonderful people in this neighbourhood and I’m excited to feed them.”

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