Zambri's, Pagliacci's, Spinnaker's, and other dining hotspots, to prepare ingredients for Saanich dine-in/take-out venture
MIKE KOZAKOWSKI, CITIFIED.CA
Published October 6, 2020
Prepared meals using ingredients from some of downtown Victoria’s most popular restaurants will soon be available in dine-in, take-out and cook-at-home format as part of a new venture in Saanich.
Niche Grocerant, opening next spring at Royal Oak Drive’s Broadmead Village Shopping Centre, is bringing urban fare to the suburbs with a combined restaurant-and-grocery concept from local businesswomen Ceri Barlow and Jami Wood.
“The pandemic has transformed the way we look at the food business and food production, and we want to bring some of the best of what Victoria’s dining scene has to offer to Saanich,” says Barlow, adding that the ‘grocerant’ concept is not to be a manufacturer of food, rather “an assembly of ingredients from our local restaurants, food producers, and farms.”
Downtown Victoria’s dining scene – hit hard by heavily reduced numbers of workers, nearly non-existent revenues from tourism and high-profile street issues that have impacted the volumes of local patronage – is struggling to cope with high overhead costs and a customer drought which could extend well into 2021. As part of an all-hands-on-deck effort to support the industry, Barlow and Wood believe excess capacity at professional kitchens yields a perfect opportunity for a collaborative prepared meal concept.
“Restaurants already have commercial kitchens, and they can utilize excess capacity to supply ingredients for prepared meals that can be sold off-site, and we feel like there is a real need for that kind of option especially in an area like Broadmead which is so under-served by the restaurant industry,” Barlow said.
Initial partners will include downtown Victoria’s Courtenay Room, Pagliacci’s, Spinnaker's (in nearby Vic West) and Zambri’s restaurants, and Dumpling Drop, a new start-up from long-time food and beverage industry pro Tarn Tayanunth.
Oak Bay’s Village Butcher, operated by Barlow’s husband Michael Windle, Oak Bay’s The Whole Beast deli from Cory Pelan, and Bob Fraumeni’s Finest at Sea seafood business in James Bay will prepare products for the grocery side of the equation and for Niche's meal ingredients, while local farms will supply seasonal items. A food primary license will permit alcohol sales on-site including rotating local craft beers and wines, and select international brands.
The business will take over the shopping centre’s former Dig This gardening store retail unit, an 1,132 square foot space along Broadmead Village’s main vehicle strip. Seating for diners will include room for upwards of 30 patrons inside and 20 in an outdoor patio. COVID-era seating restrictions, however, will lower dine-in seating to approximately half of full capacity.
And as part of a commitment to environmentally-friendly materials, Barlow says Niche will limit the use of plastics in its carry-out containers.
“We’re looking at different packaging that we can sanitize in-store, like glass and platinum silicone, but also using items like birch cutlery and stone paper, which is paper made out of mineral dust that is recyclable, waterproof and reusable.”
If all goes to plan, Niche Grocerant will open for business by February or March of next year.
In other grocery news, James Bay’s 100-year-old Niagara Market has re-opened as For Good Measure, a gourmet bulk food and produce business on Menzies Street at Niagara Street.
Owner-operator Max Young, who also runs a For Good Measure location in Cadboro Bay, says the “response from customers at our two locations has been unbelievable,” in light of COVID-19 restrictions which earlier in the year heavily impacted his businesses. C
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