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'We believe having a grocery store downtown is essential': Marketplace Sudbury owner on revitalizing the shop

Patrick Shay has been learning and refining skills essential to the business
8/15/2023
the marketplace sudbury
Photography via Doyle's Marketplace/Facebook

A butcher and a baker, Patrick Shay is your modern-day food purveyor.

As the new owner of the Marketplace Sudbury, the grocery store in the heart of downtown, Shay has been learning and refining skills essential to the business. That means being a jack of all trades, like processing meat that comes into the store and baking bread and other goods, as he is also the owner of the Country Style inside the space.

Shay and his wife Laura took ownership of the grocery store in the downtown mall on July 1. The family was living in Richmond Hill, with Shay working remotely for a tech start-up when the company went bankrupt. The couple had their second child and decided to move to Sudbury, where Laura grew up and still had family. That's when they came upon the quaint grocery store located in Elm Place. Like many businesses, it had struggled during the pandemic and required significant investment to ensure it became sustainable again.

"My wife and I saw it as an opportunity to revitalize the store and help support downtown,'' said Shay. "We believe having a grocery store downtown is essential, especially for a lot of our seniors and other people in this area.''

The store also acts as a meeting hub for seniors living in the downtown core.

"The seniors come in, they get their coffee, their donut or muffin,'' he said. "They sit over here and play crib. They socialize and get an outing from some of the retirement homes.''

Since taking ownership of the store, Shay said his focus has been on bringing in fresh produce and meat.

"I try and get deliveries once or twice a week," he said. "I try and get as much Canadian produce as possible. From there, it's having the staples: eggs, butter, milk and bread. I've lowered the price on all those items to be more competitive.''

Connecting with customers and asking what they want to see in the store has been very helpful too.

"I have a lot of seniors coming into the store and they're asking for specific items,'' said Shay.

"One of the items they asked for is beef liver. I was hesitant at first  I have never butchered beef liver before  but I brought it in, butchered it up and within two days I had sold it all.''

Shay said he's essentially trying to bring "everyday value'' to his customers. He is making grab-and-go meals and offering warmly pressed sandwiches for quick lunch and dinners.

READ: How grocers can satisfy the growing appetite for meal solutions

"I've dropped my prices on the staples and I'm trying to offer a lot of two-for-one pricing so they get reduced pricing when buying in multiples. I have an exceptional team that has great customer service. We listen and try to understand what they are looking for.''

Shay has worked in the retail industry most of his life and so understood the risk he was taking.

"I've been in corporate retail doing supply chain, merchandise, financial planning,'' he said. "But I was looking for a way to control my own destiny and be an operator and run my own business.

"For me, the retail side of it spoke to me as to how to buy and sell. There's definitely been some challenges of learning how to buy produce, how to butcher, but we're also trying to understand how stuff spoils.''

READ: Metro, Too Good To Go ink province-wide partnership

He's partnered Too Good To Go, an app that connects food retailers to customers to save unsold food from being thrown out. Shay said it helps him reduce his carbon imprint, cut down on his food waste and provides people with access to cheap yet nutritious food.

"We knew that as we started this business and built it back up, there would be food waste and spoilage, and we're trying to reduce that, especially being down here where we know people have financial challenges,'' he said.

Shay has also been reaching out to local farmers and growers to determine whether selling local food is feasible.

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