L'Épicerie mobile brings a grocery store to your door

Sarah Moysan solves her city's food desert problem with a grocery delivery truck

Sarah Moysan always dreamed of being her own boss.

So when the lone grocery store in her rural region on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River closed last November, she heard opportunity knock.

"Apart from a few convenience stores, people in the villages around here had no easy access to good food," Moysan, a long-time truck driver, said from the coastal village of Métis sur Mer. "I figured this was a chance to own my own business."

Unable to obtain financing to buy the closed store Moysan came up with an alternative plan.

Using an idea she had seen on trips to Europe, Moysan bought a pick-up truck and a 14-foot-trailer that she and her husband renovated into a mobile grocery store she dubbed "L'épicérie mobile."

She stocked the trailer with organic fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, and meat from local producers, and set up shop six days a week in local villages and campgrounds during July and August.

"It wasn't very profitable," said Moysan, who equipped the trailer with shelving and a battery-operated fridge that kept food fresh. "But it was my first year and I learned lessons that will help me next year."

One lesson was that visitors from Montreal and other urban areas were more attuned to buying her fresh local produce than the locals.

"I think many people here are used to driving to Rimouski to stock up from the big stores," said Moysan. "That's a problem for all village stores across Quebec."

Other deterrents to sales she identified were limited selection and the artisanal nature of her mobile store.

"Not everyone likes shopping in a trailer," deadpanned Moysan.

She noted however that some locals regularly flagged her down as she drove through villages, ringing an old school bell out the truck window as she went "like an ice cream truck," she said.

That reaction, together with the pleasure she got from buying and selling food, convinced Moysan to take a second stab—this one successful—at owning a grocery store in the area.

Two weeks ago, she and her husband reopened another closed store in Mont-Joli, 30 kms east of Rimouski.

"So far so good," Moysan told Canadian Grocer from the four-employee store, which is being rolled out under Métro's Ami banner. "I really enjoy it (and) it will be a great base for L'épicérie mobile."

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