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Retail reinvention at Cousin's Market

As it prepares to mark its 40th anniversary, the Mississauga indie grocer unveils a major upgrade

Times are changing and so, too, is Mississauga, Ont.'s Cousin's Market.

Gus Battaglia, who operates the business with brothers Mark and Anthony, says the time was right to update the store, which has been a fixture of the Port Credit community since his father and his two cousins (thus the name of the market) opened for business in 1978.

"We need to stay relevant in the marketplace," he says, explaining the motivation for the $3-million project the brothers embarked on last fall, the largest reno in the store's history. "We're not a No Frills type of operation so we feel people expect more from us when they come in the store."

What customers will now find at Cousin's is a focus on fresh, local, premium brands (Beretta Farms, Balzacs's Coffee, etc.) and an expanded offering of prepared foods. Along with a new deli, cheese department, salad bar and soup island (featuring 30 varieties made from scratch daily) there is also an eat-in dining area where customers can enjoy stone-oven pizzas and other foods prepared on site.

(L-R) Mark, Gus and Anthony Battaglia inside their store

Battaglia is banking on its expanded prepared foods offer to set Cousin's apart from the competition. As part of the update, 3,000 sq. ft. of space was added to the operation (bringing its total space to about 14,000 sq. ft.), which allowed for the installation of a state-of-the-art chef's kitchen. Along with the kitchen, he says about half a dozen cooks have been hired and Anthony Caruso—formerly of Michael-Angelo's and a 30-year foodservice veteran—has been brought on staff as director of food operations.

"We are doing a lot of business in catering, a lot of corporate and personal events, so there's already lots happening in the kitchen all the time," says Battaglia.

All the effort seems to be paying off. According to Battaglia, customers have been responding well to the changes and business has increased 25% since the renovation began.

"For us it's a labour of love. We've been raised in this business since we were kids," says Battaglia. "It's great to come to work every day when you love what you're doing."



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