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Take a look under the hood

Matt Lurie's fresh ideas on sourcing and low operating costs allow Organic Garage to offer quality food at affordable prices

Shoppers roaming the Cereal Freeway and PB & J Circuit aisles at the Organic Garage in Vaughan, Ont., resemble library browsers, heads bowed as they intently study ingredient lists.

Those who glance up from the nutrition labels are treated to chalkboard-like signage peppered throughout the store.

But thanks to owner Matt Lurie’s diligent sourcing of all-natural, organic products, his customers don’t have to do any extra work to find top-quality goods. Better yet, Lurie’s innovative stocking approach also means they don’t have to break the bank to eat organic.

“Our prices are 10% to 24% lower than any of our competitors’ everyday prices,” says Randee Glassman, who was an ardent customer before becoming the budding chain’s director of marketing.

To get the best prices, Lurie negotiates deals in some categories where individual companies serve as nearly sole sup- pliers. For example, all the store’s milk comes from Harmony Organic, based in Kincardine, Ont.

The only exceptions: varieties Harmony doesn’t make, such as lactose-free and goat’s milk.

Sound like an unusual strategy?

“It’s virtually unheard of,” says Lurie. “But we’re a firm believer in not over-SKUing categories. No. 1, carrying 10 cheddar cheese companies is not feasible in our square footage. We are highly selective, and when we find categories where we don’t feel the need to have competition, we want to carry a brand that is a leader in the market.”

Organic Garage is able to negotiate better prices, he says, because brands like to hear it doesn’t carry 50 of their competitors’ products.

The 13,000-sq.-ft. store in this boom- ing city north of Toronto opened in 2013. It built on the success of the first location, which was founded by Lurie, in Oakville, Ont., in 2006. Confident in his brand’s identity, Lurie plans to open a third Organic Garage, in Toronto’s west end, in 2016.

“We’re not your typical grocery store, and that speaks to one of our taglines: ‘We’re a grocery store with a difference,’ ” says Lurie.

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