Produce pop-up finds permanent place Enterprise, C1
Legacy Greens’ Ontario Street location will bring bigger kitchen, stability
KITCHENER — When Jordan Dolson opened the doors to Legacy Greens in the summer of 2015, she described it as a pop-up shop featuring fresh produce and other foods.
The store has operated near the corner of King and Queen streets in downtown Kitchener ever since. And next year, Dolson is planning a short move to a building she’s purchased on Ontario Street just a block or so away.
Dolson is the first to admit she didn’t know if success would be certain.
“There is a little bit of uncertainty when you do something like this,” she says. “When someone takes a risk, and it actually works … that’s what small business is.”
Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, she left a job as a deputy clerk at a nearby township. But Dolson, who grew up on a farm near Listowel, had done her homework.
She’d noticed the prevalence, and popularity, of small independent grocers while she was living in B.C. as a student. She did her research, and saw an opportunity for something similar in downtown Kitchener. She tested the waters with a season at the farmers’ market in Stratford, selling produce she’d grown on a quarter-acre plot at her parents’ Legacy Holsteins farm. She then spent a couple of months at the Kitchener market in the months leading up to the store’s opening.
“That was excellent,” she says. “I got to talk to customers in the area and recruit them to the store.” The market experience was as much about marketing as it was about sales.
She’s since seen steady, manageable growth, with monthly sales sometimes up 50 per cent from the year before. “I think we’re at that sweet spot for growth.”
This summer, she purchased a two-storey building at 18 Ontario St. N. Following renovations, she plans to move Legacy Greens there next year. The first floor will be the retail space, while a kitchen — where store manager Erin Felder produces prepared foods like soups, hummus, salads, dips and fresh rolls — will be located on the second floor.
Dolson says it’s “a dream” to own her own building, giving her freedom from rent increases and more security going forward. While the retail space is a bit smaller than her current shop, the kitchen will be larger.
Fresh produce is front and centre at Legacy Greens, with about 75 per cent sourced from local growers during the summer months. Dolson grows harder-to-find goods such as cherry tomatoes and ground cherries at her plot. “I try to focus on crops that are unique, but there’s a demand for.”
Some international basics like bananas and avocados are popular, too, and once storage crops like apples and squash run out by
late winter, there’s a greater focus on imports from the United States and Mexico. Dolson only sells some items, like asparagus, when it’s in season locally.
While customers sometimes seize on certain food trends, “I think produce in general is just an ongoing movement upwards in terms of demand,” she says.
But there’s a lot more than just produce in store at Legacy Greens.
The store carries some other local groceries like meat, cheese, milk and ice cream. Along with the prepared foods that Felder makes, it brings in sushi from A Taste of Seoul once a week, and it is planning to introduce chili on Tuesdays in January.
There’s also a selection of local gift options, including Nith Valley Apiaries honey and golden birch syrup from Wagram Springs in Moorefield, chocolate from Ambrosia Pastry, caramels from Hugo & Nate, and soaps from Cambridge’s Buck Naked Soap Company.
While customers can shop online, there’s more selection in-store. “I think people are craving experiences,” Dolson adds.
Many of their customers are regulars; the four-person staff know many by name. “People come in because it’s a very personal experience in the store,” Felder says.
Dolson says she’s encouraged to see other new businesses like Show & Tell Coffee opening nearby. “Not enough businesses are opening, but it will happen and I’d love to see more of it,” she says.
“I’m optimistic. I really love our community here, and I feel that this community will grow as we intensify the downtown, which gives us a fun opportunity to grow our business.”
Jordan Dolson, left, owner of Legacy Greens, and store manager Erin Felder are looking forward to moving the business next year to a building Dolson purchased on Ontario Street North.