The town of Campbellford is just a 40 minute drive for us. It is a beautiful little town. For us it is a destination. One of the things that I love about the quaint town of Cambellford is their amazing independent grocery store, Sharpe's Food Market. Sharpe's is an enigma in the billion dollar grocery business, they are a family owned, truly independent.
When Christopher and I first began dating, his Dad owned a Foodland grocery store in Acton. This was before "Foodland" became a big chain that began replacing the local IGA's. Christopher's Dad was meticulous in the way that he ran his grocery store. You could have run a white glove along any shelf, any can, and it would have been spotless. Don personally picked up the fruits and vegetables for his store, making breaking dawn trips into Toronto. If it was not perfection, you would not find it in Don Lindsay's store. I remember walking into the Foodland with Christopher and all of these little old ladies shopping would grab onto Christopher and speak to him. They asked him about school, about his life. The reason for this was because the Lindsay's were highly respected members of Acton. Don ran his store the right way. He was very involved in his community and supported as many non-profits and local teams and pretty much anyone else who would come in and ask for his support. It was around this time when big business started to push it's nose into small grocery store chains. Head office would make radical decisions that would effect the way that the small local grocery stores were run. The people who owned the stores, the people who made their bread and butter from their own communities were no longer the bosses. It was at this time that Don decided to sell his store. I think that if he could not run it according to his high standards, then he would not allow his name to be attached to it.
In so many ways Sharpe's reminds me of Christopher's Dad's store. You can feel the pride when you walk through those glass sliding doors. Everything is immaculate. The first thing that you see when you walk in are the friendly faces of the women working at the meal / deli counter. This is a family who is running a business, but remember's who pays them. Their customer service is extraordinary. Every employee that I have ever met has been polite and helpful, that is a lot more than you could say for most of the big box stores / grocery chains. Here's what sealed the deal for me... Before I went around taking pictures I thought it was a good idea to ask permission. I asked a man who was stocking the produce if he could please tell me where I might find a manager. He pointed to the spotless man with the warm friendly face who was also stocking the produce department. I explained to him about my blog, and then asked permission to take pictures around the store, and more specifically would it be alright if I took a picture of him. He thought it should look like he was working so that he wouldn't get fired, he then with a laugh he confided that they couldn't fire him, he was family. Right there I was instantly impressed. In so many other stores the owners and their families sit back and tell other's what to do, keeping their well manicured hands clean. Growing up Christopher worked at his Dad's store. He stocked shelves, he made deliveries to the older people in town, and often visited with the poor lonely things. He was a part of his family's store, he did not sit back. As a matter of fact, all of Christopher's sisters also worked at the store, it was after all a family business.
I love the giving nature of the store. They make children feel wanted and included. Really it's just smart to make children form an attachment to the store, because if you want your business to last several generations (and their's has), you want to have people feel valued, to feel like they have an ownership. There are fun carts for the kids, Elly was super excited to steer her rocket ship cart. She truly felt like she was in charge and was steering for real. There are also little tiny immaculate children's sized carts, so that they can walk along side and fill their carts. I went to the deli counter and ordered some black forest ham. When the woman behind the counter was finished weighing and bagging my cold meat, she asked if Elly would like a slice of ham to eat. Where do they give away free food? This is something that they do every I have been in there. The kids feel very important as they walk along (or as in Elly's case ride along like royalty) eating their deli meat, that has been rolled into a fun little roll.
Not only do Sharpe's give children free deli meat, when they walk over to the bakery department, usually a nice lady asks them if they would like a cookie. Where can you get your children fed at the average grocery store without paying a cent? That level of generosity makes me want to give them my business all the more. I just wish that Sharpe's would bring a grocery store to Tweed.
At your regular grocery store, you really have no idea where your meat comes from. I suspect it may actually come from some meat processing plant, I really have no idea. I mean I see the workers walk out in their white apron pushing that silver revolving cart and fill the meat display, but they come out of a big metal door. I don't know what's behind that door. I just have to have faith that they are following all of the health codes. At Sharpe's you can see right into their meat department. It is set back a bit so that the average Joe who lacks basic manners (or hygienic practices) cannot cough all over the meat, but if you care to stand there, you can watch them prepare your meat.
I stood watching Garry the butcher, I felt mildly stupid for standing there staring, but at the same time I was fascinated watching him. He took great care as he cut that meat, there was great skill in every stroke of what I expect was a razer sharp knife. This was a professorial, applying his trade. You would think that with an obviously highly trained butcher on staff, and it looked like there was more than one, you would pay an absorbanent price for your meat, but it's really quite the contrary. My first instinct is to say that Sharpe's has the cheapest meat around, but the word cheap brings to mind lesser quality, in exchange for a lesser price, and so I would say their prices are the most reasonable, because their meat is anything but "lesser quality". I filled my cart with meat that will last my family of 6 easily two and a half weeks of meals and the cost was around $100.00. That is almost unheard of now a days.
|This is a picture of a stuffed pork loin.|
Have you seen a stuffed pork loin offered at
your local grocery store? Was it under $8.00?
The picture below is the actual price of their banana. The only time that I have ever seen a price that low on bananas was in historic pictures of grocery stores and produce stores. Those pictures were set in the 1970's. 39 cents for bananas is unheard of in this day and age. Needless to say I bought a number of bunches ( A. bananas don't last very long in our house. B. If for some alien reason the bananas go brown before we are able to eat them all, then I will make lots of batches of banana bread.)
It will come as no to surprise when I tell you that I really love Sharpe's Food Market. I have a great respect for their ethics, and high standards. I wish it was closer, because it would be my grocery store of choice. Their prices are extremely reasonable, their staff are friendly and helpful. When I shop in their store I do not feel like I am being taken advantage of, like I do in most grocery stores. I feel like I am being dealt with fairly. More than that I like the way the store feels like the "community's store".
They have the most amazing thing that is at the end of their cash registers, something that I have never seen anywhere else. At the end of the cash registers are a bank of wooden boxes, they look like little mail boxes. There are also little boxes set on top of the bank of boxes. Over top of each little mailbox is a label. These labels all say different things, "Lawn bowling", Soccer Association", "Food bank", "Ladies Hospital Auxiliary" the list goes on and on. Here is the amazing part. When you have paid for groceries, if you put your receipt into one of those boxes, Sharpe's will make a donation to that organization based on a percentage of your bill. Where else does that?
After we had checked out, Elly and I stood trying to decide who to give our receipt to. I asked Elly, "Would you like to give it to the people who make the park so very pretty? Would you like it to help at the hospital", "Would you like it to help hungry people have food to eat?" She did not hesitate, "We need the hungry people to eat!" She balanced herself in the cart, so that she could personally put our receipt into the little silver lunch pail. She was very proud of herself, and of "us". This allows us to begin a conversation with our children about charity, about helping the community. It allows a dialogue that encourages children to think about something bigger than them. It shows them that the world is not just about them, that the world is a better place when we do our share and help others. It encourages children to learn about alterism. All of this just from buying groceries.
It seems like our society only really values money. No longer are buildings built for beauty, but instead for economy and greatest profit. All of the little Mom and Pop stores are becoming extinct. In the place of people who ran a business to earn a living, but also to be members of a community, are now big business. Big business makes decisions based on the bottom line, how to make the most profit, even if that profit is made at the expense of quality and of the environment and the very people that they need to survive. Big business does not care about people, it cares about the profit margin. As a society we support these big businesses because we feel like we can save money (again about money). We don't think about what the true cost of our doing business really means. We don't think about our local sports teams and our schools and churches. Big business does not support these, small local businesses do. If we want our local businesses to support us, then perhaps we need to rethink our money saving strategies.
Sharpe's Food Market is not a big chain. They obviously make a profit, or else they would not still be in business after all of those years. They make a profit, but not on the backs of the community in which they live. They respect their customers, and I hope that their regular customers appreciate what a gem they have in their community. Sharpe's Food Market is the business model that I wish more businesses would use. It is a place where you feel welcomed, and feel good about where your food is coming from.