C/O Strathcona Market

Strathcona Market opens up following Mustard Seed Co+op closure

As convenient as Fortino’s and Food Basics may be for your Tuesday grocery run, the big-box grocery stores aren’t the only available options when it comes to stocking your fridge. The newly opened Strathcona Market, located on York Blvd., is a new one-stop-shop for local food and produce just a bus ride away from Mac campus.

MRKTBOX, the company behind Strathcona Market, opened their first physical space at Dundurn Market in West Hamilton in 2018. Only six months ago, they opened Ottawa Market on Ottawa Street, now followed by the new opening of Strathcona Market. 

After the closing of The Mustard Seed Co+op in August 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Strathcona Market emerged in its spot at 460 York Blvd. to carry on the Mustard Seed’s legacy of ethically sourced local foods. Given the existing infrastructure and functionality of the space, the transition was a natural step to fill the gap left in the Hamilton community.

“It was very disappointing to hear that the Mustard Seed was closing because they were a pioneer in the local food community, creating a space for properly curated goods . . . There was clearly a loss in terms of the community and their feedback on social media, so it was an opportunity we were given that we also couldn’t pass up,” said Mackenzie Brown, Head of Produce and Communications Manager at Strathcona Market.

The new space at Strathcona Market has allowed MRKTBOX to expand their operations through much needed square footage, a new shipping and receiving center and a parking lot at the market.

Brown described the Strathcona Market as similar to a farmer’s market, operating every day, year-round. The new space functions as both a grocery store and cafe space — a hub for local produce and food.

“Strathcona Market is a multidimensional business that aims to support and uplift the local community by being a central point for local vendors, farmers and otherwise known creators in the city. We want to highlight and celebrate the sort of local food industry and almost create more food security within Hamilton and the greater area. It's hard to actually create a local food stable community unless you have businesses like ours,” explained Brown.

"Strathcona Market is a multidimensional business that aims to support and uplift the local community by being a central point for local vendors, farmers and otherwise known creators in the city."

Mackenzie Brown, Head of Produce and Communications Manager at Strathcona Market

The foods sold at Strathcona Market are sourced with an attention to local, organic and ethically produced products. All local foods come from farmers and businesses within 100 kilometers of the Hamilton area, though sourcing can be variable depending on the in-season produce available.

In the market, the kitchen team can be found manning the in-house cafe to create fresh salads, sandwiches, coffee and more using a selection of local produce.

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“You can also see a lot of Hamilton all in one spot. We have butchers from Ottawa Street, which is all the way on the East End. We have local farmers growing in the Hamilton area that sell their goods here in the summer. You can buy fresh bread from three local bakeries that are all in Hamilton. Just coming to Strathcona Market, you're getting your morning coffee and getting all the groceries that you need for the week. You're actually supporting half a dozen to over a dozen local businesses with one purchase,” said Brown.

"Just coming to Strathcona Market, you're getting your morning coffee and getting all the groceries that you need for the week. You're actually supporting half a dozen to over a dozen local businesses with one purchase."

Mackenzie Brown, Head of Produce and Communications Manager at Strathcona Market

For those unable to visit Strathcona Market’s physical space, MRKTBOX has grocery delivery services available, delivered to your doorstep. Market Boxes can be customized weekly with a new assortment of local and organic produce and artisan items for a convenient way to shop local.

For students, a visit to Strathcona Market means not only a way to get out and explore Hamilton, but also to support and give back to the local community.

Photos by Kyle West

By Drew Simpson

The Mustard Seed Co-operative’s new café is just shy of two weeks old. The café fits in a perfect hub on the left upon entering the grocery store. The warm string lights, wooden details and contrasting black backdrop displaying the café menu set a welcoming tone for the Mustard Seed Co-op.

At one end of the space lays the café, inside the store yet out of the way of potential shopping. At the other end of the store and directly opposite the café counter is a cozy area with tan round wooden tables, earth-toned chairs and an L-shaped wood bench. It feels like the perfect progression: ordering a coffee, walking across the store to take a seat or walking around the aisles to shop for local food.

Although the grocery store is a co-operative, there is no membership needed to shop or to enjoy the café’s fair trade coffee, tea, espressos, lattes and Italian sodas with house-made syrups. However, after seeing the harmony between the café counter and the community space all within this grocery store, one can imagine it would be worthwhile to be a part of the community that birthed and built the Mustard Seed café.

Stacey Allen-Cillis, the operations team lead and a founder of Mustard Seed Co-op already knew the importance of local eating due to her own backyard garden started by her two kids. She started by selling produce from her own backyard and gave all the proceeds to youth at risk.

The people behind the Mustard Seed Co-op are not the only ones interested in urban farming and local eating. Passersby will come across houses selling backyard farm produce on walks through the neighbouring streets and boulevards.

“The Mustard Seed community is all very like-minded. We are all connected…so either you’re growing your own, you go to a community garden, you utilize farmer’s markets, you’re passionate in some way about food, community and beyond. It’s all intertwined,” explained Allen-Cillis.

When the community expressed a need for the café, the co-op board agreed. The fated café became a reality through cooperation between staff, committees and even volunteer ‘worker bees’ that built the space.

It is only natural for the café space, which includes an indoor and outdoor section, to double as a community space. Adding another medium for Mustard Seed Co-op to connect with the community. The intention is also for everyone in the neighbourhood to have access to a space that is their own, especially with a lack of cafés within a kilometre radius. The Co-op will also utilize the space to continually educate its shoppers and members about the importance of local eating.

With the café honouring the five-year anniversary of the business, it also symbolized that the Mustard Seed Co-op is fulfilling its prophecy as ‘the mustard seed is an ancient metaphor for great things coming of small beginnings,’ as mentioned in the membership passport.

Additionally, it is the only Co-op grocery store in Hamilton. Allen-Cillis foresees either opening another location in Hamilton or encouraging the sprouting of another Co-op by sharing the Mustard Seed Co-op’s success. Allen-Cillis always stresses that everything accomplished is through the cooperation of the Co-op’s members, staff and community.

The Mustard Seed Co-op’s members are able to attend general assembly meetings where they can vote and take part in specific committees, like the sourcing committee, which focuses on where local food is coming from, or committees like the one that made the café a reality.

Walking through the grocery aisles, café and community space seems like the perfect intersection between conscious eating and supporting the community. For the health conscious shopper who loves to give back by purchasing locally sourced produce, the Mustard Seed Co-op is a great grocery store and now, a great café with a community space you can call your own.

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