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There are times that I really do feel like The Little Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe. I even call our little house "The Shoe". I am a stay at home mom. I do really think that was my calling. My kids are 13, 10, 10, (yes they are twins) and 5. Our life is an adventure, most times it really is a beautiful adventure.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Sharpe's Food Market - An Amazing Campbellford Gem


    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?
    Before I finish talking about Sharpe's meat department, I feel like need to talk about their sausages.  My family LOVE sausages.  When my family asks the inevitable and super irritating "What's for dinner?", if I tell them that we are having sausages my children (who all like and hate different things) all give a huge cheer.  The biggest cheer can be heard from the biggest kid, Christopher.  I believe that Christopher's love of sausage is so great that I think he may very consider himself to be a sausage conesseur.  The sausages are all made in store, as a matter of fact, most of the packages were "Garry's own".  I purchased country style, maple, and honey garlic.  OH MY GOODNESS, were they ever good!  Christopher exclaimed that they may very well be the best sausages that he has ever eaten, and I would have to agree with him.  That is high praise from a sausage conesseur.  If I could take just a second more, it is here that I would like to say "Thank You Garry, you are a true craftsmen.  My compliments to you and your sausage making skills!" (oh my they were good sausages).


    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.

  


8 comments:

  1. Wow, how nice to read your article about a happy customer. Usually things written are more complaint in nature. You are very lucky to have such a great business in your community. I feel rather lucky to be related to John and Karen and they should be so proud of their family business.

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  2. You should also mention that they hire countless (and I mean countless!) high school students! And they make them put their studies first. Student employees are given just enough hours to make some teenage money, but not enough to hinder studies or hog hours from other deserving students who want to work. We shop at Sharps consistently and it's always enjoyable. And they also have carts big enough to fit two kids! no one else in town has them :) We are VERY lucky to have them!

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  3. i like to say that everything i have read in this is more then true thay r grat people and are always helping arownd campbellford not just at there own stor i have see thim cleking monny for SA in town arownd vmas time and i read a story that thay hired someone with a disabilaty now let me tell you for some one to do that it a big deal as i have a disabilaty of my own (spelling )as u can tell sorry. and i rented a house off thim and thay r grat anything went wrong thay was right there to fix it or sand some in to do it naver ok we will get arownd to it like some place i have rented it was dont that day with the sharpes boys thay r grat people and what did i find today when walking in the stor to get some luch from the dale tom out stoking shevls now u tell me where u find a bissnis owner doing that not much now a day thay ushle sit behind a computer and u naver see thim not at the sharps thow thay r all working hard nice to see and u know some time when u go in to a stor and u see the owner thay look at u as if to say iam better then you and walk a way not u dont ge that at sharps thay see you and first thing thay say is hello how your day and will sit there and chat with u for a min or 2 that is what i call down to eath people and that is what thay r well got to go or i coled tell u more and more but thank u for wrighting this it give me a chanse to say what i have alwas being thinking of thim

    Jenn

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  4. I also love this store. I have a cottage in Campbellford. I shop there from April to October. Their customer service is outstanding!!!!! If there is something that you're looking for and they don't have it, they'll get it in for you. What other grocery store will do that for you? Keep up the good work Sharpe family.

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  5. Thanks for writing the article Re: Sharpe's. We have a cottage in Percy Boom and my family has shopped at Sharpe's since it opened and the enjoyment continues. We are third generation owners of our cottage and go to Campbellford from May through Oct. Sharpe's is our number 1 store. We unanimously agree with everything said about this store by the author and all those who have made positive comments. On the drive down from Sudbury,we talk about and look forward to shopping there the minute we arrive in town recognizing people we know, both customers and Sharpe employees. The store is set up for a friendly shopping experience. It has always been a pleasure to shop there. This is a family owned and operated business that keeps in mind the needs of the community, and summer residents.
    We wish Sharpe's continued success.

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  6. Thank you for writing this article.
    I am part of those generations of shoppers you touched on. And you're exactly right, it's the customer service and how this family not only runs their business but gives back to the community that keeps my family and dozens of others shopping at their store. It truly is a gem in our town and a pleasure to shop there.

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  7. My Mom worked there, I worked there. I now have returned to live in Campbellford so I now shop there. Another incredible aspect of Sharpes are the donation receipt boxes at the front of the store. Sharpe's will donate $1 for every $1000 of receipts. Have you seen how many boxes are up there. What a great way to give back to the community.

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  8. Lovely write up..my sister and sister-in-law both work there. Nicest place to shop!

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