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Quebec City grocer marries old, new world foods

Seal meat offered in steaks, ground meat, ground sausage and a mousse de foie

Anthony Lauriot has one of the most important factors for retail success going for him at his small specialty food shop in Quebec City's historic Lower Town district: location, location, location.

But he also has knowledge, experience and timing on his side.

"Consumer response has been terrific," Lauriot told Canadian Grocer from Fou de Bio (Crazy about Organic).

Opened 18 months ago next to Place Royale, which is Ground Zero for tourists to Quebec's picture-perfect provincial capital, it stocks a wide variety of high-end terroir products from 75 Quebec suppliers.

Products range from high-end charcuterie, bread, jams and honey to smoked salmon, sorbet, baked goods and fine chocolates.

It also offers two award-winning French cheeses.

"We've got everything you need for a truly fabulous meal or picnic," said Lauriot.

The store also sells some exotic fare, none more than seal meat from the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.

Worth $85 per kilogram, it is available in steaks, ground meat, dried sausage and a mousse de foie that Lauriot says is unique in the world, and for which he has exclusivity.

"They are delicious and sales have been incredible," he said.

The store's success is a dream come true for Lauriot.

A native of France's wine- and food-famous Bourgogne region, where he worked in the restaurant business, Lauriot immigrated to Canada in 2002 to manage the Fleur de Lys, a high-end restaurant on Quebec's far-off Gaspe Peninsula.

Over the next decade, he developed a sterling network of regional suppliers for everything from lobsters, clams, beef and pork to bread, jams, vegetables and fruit.

When the restaurant closed in 2012, he moved to Quebec City and got a job running the food services in a general hospital.

But it was a part-time job he took selling Gaspe-supplied fish for a friend at a local farmer's market on weekends that gave Lauriot both the idea and desire to open his store in Oct. 2014.

"I listened to my clients," he said.  "I understood the need (and) my goal was to sell all these hidden treasures from small Quebec farms that produce absolutely fantastic foods."

In addition to taste-testing tourists, which account for roughly half of sales, Lauriot said food-loving residents of Quebec City, which has experienced an economic renaissance in recent years, make up the other half.

"People here want and have the means to buy quality food products," said Lauriot.

He also counts several celebrity chefs from the city's top restaurants among his clients.

"The word is spreading," said Lauriot, who can see the St. Lawrence from his shop's window.  "We've got the wind in our sails."

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