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Organic Garage expanding Hand-Picked Partner program

The independent grocer is also seeking additional partners in categories such as specialty meat and cheese, and prepared foods

Independent grocer Organic Garage is expanding its three-year-old Hand-Picked Partner program and is actively seeking out other “specialized local vendors” to bring into its four Toronto-area stores.

The company is rolling out vegan bakery Tori’s Bakeshop across all four stores, while adding the sustainable sushi brand Cali-Rolls to its store in the city’s Junction neighbourhood. Both vendors were previously at its location in Liberty Village.

Organic Garage introduced the Hand-Picked Partner program in 2017. At the time, Organic Garage CEO Matt Lurie said it would help sales by driving traffic, while driving down occupancy costs through a shared revenue and rent model. It differentiates Organic Garage from its competitors by bringing “unique products and features” into its stores, he said.

“It brings the best of [the vendors’] expertise, allowing them to deliver on that instead of us trying to be something we aren’t, like a bakery, sushi restaurant, juice bar, butcher, cheese expert all rolled into one—which we aren’t, and frankly no grocery store is,” said Lurie. He declined to provide sales numbers for the program.

Established in 2012, Tori’s Bakeshop is a plant-based bakery specializing in organic treats free of animal products and by-products. “Tori’s Bakeshop is grateful to be neighbourhood partners with Organic Garage, whose healthy conscience, best practices and community engagement are values we wholeheartedly champion,” said founder Tori Vaccher.

Organic Garage is currently seeking to partner with other vendors in segments including specialty meats, cheeses and breads, as well as prepared foods and plants and flowers. Lurie said the company was seeking partners with “the same mindset and culture” with respect to its focus on healthy additive-free food.

“The program has been a learning process as we continue to make adjustments, but we have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t,” said Lurie. “After some tweaks, the program has been very successful for us and our partners, hence we’re rolling out more.”

Organic Garage recently reported it did $24 million in sales last year, with February marking the company’s 12th consecutive month of sales increases. It plans to open its fifth location in Toronto’s Leaside neighbourhood this year.

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