When business-as-usual became impossible, many in the food and drink sector found inventive ways to keep doing their thing. Here, we share a few of our favourites.
Corner Peach becomes Corner Store
The sourdough starter didn’t know there was a pandemic.
“So even though we had to close Corner Peach, we had to be in the restaurant daily, feeding the starter,” recalls chef and co-owner Caroline Murphy. With the shortages of yeast and flour at the time, Murphy and business partner Emma Campbell realized they could help their community and their small restaurant by selling sourdough starter and breadmaking kits.
For a while, they also offered takeout and curbside pickup but then changed direction: by adding a new display fridge and extra shelving, in mid-July they pivoted to become Corner Peach the Corner Store. Now open Wednesday to Saturday, they offer a cassecroute daily from noon to 7 p.m., including sandwiches, salads, pizza, bread and other bakery goodies, and a few pantry staples, as well as wine and beer to go.
Corner Store, 802 Somerset St. W.
Buchipop turns Burrow Shop
Patricia Larkin is the founder of Buchipop, a kombucha operation headquartered in Little Italy that sells through cafés and retail stores in the region. She’s also the former chef at Black Cat Bistro, so when the pandemic shut the city down, she knew the entire local food network would be struggling.
Larkin found a solution by opening Burrow Shop, a one-stop online grocery store that sells food from local makers and growers. “We decided to do this at noon on a Wednesday, and by Friday evening, Burrow shop was online and ready to go,” says Larkin, who says the name was chosen to evoke that comforting feeling of squirrelling away everything you might need. (Interestingly, she’d been considering building a small restaurant in her shop at the time — “Clearly it wasn’t a good time to open a restaurant.”)
At the outset, Burrow stocked products from about 15 vendors. Now that number tops 50, with over 500 products and new products added weekly.
Burrow Shop, 50 Beech St.
Launching Bar from Afar
For Greg and Sarah O’Brien, ingenuity stemmed from their daily ritual of sitting down together — cellphones away — and savouring a treat and a drink. “We would use it as an opportunity to turn off the news and reconnect,” says Greg. Living down the street from Whalesbone’s Kent Street shop made oysters a regular option, and the drinks were inspired by Greg’s experience tending bar at Beckta — so these were no regular G&Ts. With Sarah’s job in the financial sector also in doubt, they started to muse about new directions. Sarah started posting photos of the drinks on Instagram, and the universe responded: Do you deliver?
They looked into licenses and saw that even pre-pandemic, the rules would allow them to deliver ingredients for fabulous cocktails. Similar to services like Dial-A-Bottle, they don’t keep booze stocked but rather purchase it for specific orders. They found the kind of mini-bottles used for airplane service, launched a Shopify page, and reached out to their Beckta regulars.
After a busy first month, they hired Isa Norton to help with photography and social media. Greg’s mom, Patricia Kerrigan, helps organize delivery of the Bar From Afar boxes, which contain everything needed for spectacular “speakeasy-style” cocktails: alcohol, mix, ice, garnishes, and shaker tools. Even vintage glassware can be purchased as an add-on. The couple say they send out over 40 cocktail kits every week, with many being sent as gifts. (Branded gift cards with personalized notes can be added for gifts.) While at first, they delivered only on Fridays, they can now handle same-day delivery. Every kit also includes a personal note. “It’s a nice touch, so people know that is coming from a small company,” says Sarah.
Luna Handpies offers comfort in hand
Even though Scott and Karyn Adamson of Gaslight Sign Gallery and Cafe were expecting their first child when the pandemic hit, they shut the doors of their Almonte shop for only six weeks. And a busy time that was: Scott built a takeout window while Karyn perfected the recipes for a new venture, Luna Handpies. Since early May, they’ve been selling the from-scratch pockets, offering savoury options such as pulled pork and mushroom risotto (with locally foraged ’shrooms, no less), as well as sweet pies such as classic apple cinnamon, available ready to eat or frozen, ready for the oven. Perfect for a snack while walking around the pretty town or as a treat to keep in the freezer.
Luna Handpies, 61 Mill St., Almonte