Parkdale Food Centre launches grocery program at second branch

A woman stands outside of Mino Weesini at the Parkdale Food Centre opening the front door.
Manager Heather Bruce and Francis Atanya at the Mino’Weesini. Photo courtesy of the Parkdale Food Centre.

By Alvin Tsang

Parkdale Food Centre now has a grocery store.

The non-profit store is called Mino’Weesini (an Algonquin word that translates to “good eats”), and it opened on Oct. 7 at 5 Hamilton Avenue North.

Heather Bruce, manager of the Good Food Grocery Program, explained that the Parkdale Food Centre community kitchen and youth programming still operates at the old location, while the newly-opened Mino’Weesini operates as a grocery store-style program.

“We’ve found that our new storefront has been a lovely way to connect with our neighbours and our neighbourhoods,” Bruce said. “Being a storefront on the main level, we get the chance to chat with our drivers and our neighbours, and it’s been so great. Our volunteers have been so much happier because they’re seeing familiar faces as opposed to being isolated in the old location.”

Parkdale Food Centre’s other location is a basement with locked doors — neighbours and volunteers are required to buzz in before entry.

“Our old location? We’ve outgrown it,” Bruce said. “During COVID-19, we shifted our model to primarily a delivery model. It’s the safest and most dignified way to get groceries to people who need it.”

In the shift towards a delivery model, Parkdale Food Centre had turned 80 per cent of its space into a packaging area. The old dining room and community space were heavily reduced.

“It’s a lot of work to ‘click and collect,’ to take calls, take orders online, fill out spreadsheets, and coordinate volunteers to deliver food — and it wasn’t sustainable,” she said. “We do our best to provide choice to our neighbours accessing our programs, but it wasn’t perfect.”

Thus came the idea to look for a new space to rent and to begin a grocery program.

“We were looking and looking and looking for a new space to rent, and when the spot on Hamilton became available, we thought, ‘Wow this is perfect!’” Bruce said. “It has such a potential to turn into a small grocery where our neighbours could physically come and shop for their groceries.”

The Parkdale Food Centre received emergency funding from the City of Ottawa to help with renovation costs and rent, and the staff had spent six weeks beautifying the new storefront and even produced a movie about the second space.

A blackboard for Mino'Weesini shows community news and events.
The interior of Mino’Weesini. Photo courtesy of the Parkdale Food Centre.

The movie screening took place at Parkdale Park in early October and coincided with the opening of Mino’Weesini. 

“We walked from the movie screening at the park to the grand opening of our new location, and it was quite emotional,” she said. “The movie was really beautiful and well done too.”

Bruce said the big changes were well-received by the community, with many excited that there’s now two Parkdale Food Centre locations.

“We were worried,” Bruce said. “Change can be really stressful, but I can feel the excitement of our neighbours, feel how they’re curious about how it all works, and there’s a lot of excitement. We want to make Mino’Weesini beautiful and welcoming, and I think people see the work that’s been put into it.”

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