PETRA MARKET OFFERS A FEAST OF FOODS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST
When Nabih and Nour Dabbour originally opened the Petra Market in Saskatoon four years ago, they had no idea it would grow as fast as it did.
“We have 5,000 square feet now. It’s three times the size of the old store,” says Nabih.
After arriving in Canada 15 years ago, the idea of having a retail store dedicated to food from the Middle East seemed so, well, far away.
“When we came to the city we couldn’t find a specialized store, so we used to have to drive to Edmonton to get what we wanted,” he recalls. “So we decided to build it in Saskatoon.”
About 70 to 80 per cent of the items sold in the store come directly from the Middle East and such countries as Jordan and Lebanon.
Shoppers can find all sorts of items from those places — olives, rice, spices, pickles and a lot of Mediterranean sweets that can’t be found easily in Canada.
One of the other major parts of the new store is the installation of a bakery, complete with a massive ceramic oven that allows the store to bake its own bread in the same way it would be done in Jerusalem using traditional recipes.
“It was so hard to find exactly what we wanted,” he says. “I ended up finding the right one in California.”
One of the big hits already is the daily cooking of Iraqi samoun bread, which is like a standard pita, but a little more dense in texture. It sells out every day.
A major change is the installation of the Jerusalem Butcher Shop, operated by Ayman ElChayeb, a certified halal butcher. All meat sold is hand slaughtered.
Muslim and Jewish shoppers have flocked to the shop looking for specific cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and other meats. El-Chayeb keeps adding new products regularly, including hamburgers and various types of sausages.
The store also sells the usual convenience store items like pop, chips and ice cream.
HEN AND CHICK
You know it’s a good sign when mother and daughter can amicably work together.
That’s exactly the case for the mother and daughter duo, Natalie Lischka and Kiera Stevenson, both accomplished photographers, who have teamed up to open their own gift shop at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for us to maintain that contact,” says Lischka.
Stevenson is much more practical in her approach on the subject. She says they come from two different places and can often work together to find the right mix of items to sell in the store.
In fact, the pair has found more than 60 different Canadian artisans.
“We’re always looking for more people,” says Stevenson. “We spend a lot of time online and going to numerous trade shows.”
What started as an add-on to their photography business has blossomed into more of a Saskatchewan-centric gift shop offering all sorts of handicrafts and artwork, from jewelry and paintings to cards and carvings.
“It just seemed to naturally evolve to where (the store) is today,” says Lischka. “People are coming to the market looking to buy something locally made. We want to serve that market.”
All of the artisans are identified on info cards so Lischka and Stevenson can help educate their clients on the artists’ backgrounds. “We really take pride in how we select the different artisans we choose to carry,” says Stevenson.
They have standards for design and quality artisans must meet before Hen and Chick will consider carrying their work. That standard was evident recently when a former customer who had moved to Kelowna, B.C. returned to the store and told them how much she missed it, since there was nothing like that in Kelowna.
“That says something about the care and attention we put into our store,” says Lischka.
Hen and Chick Studios Owners: Natalie Lischka and Kiera Stevenson
Address: 106 120 Sonnenchein Way (Farmers’ Market)
Hours: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 6 p.m.