Latest Farm Boy location along Queens Quay East offers freshest produce

Farm Boy has taken the GTA by storm. On February 9thth, the grocery chain is opening its tenth location in the city of Toronto at Sugar Wharf, not far from the chain’s Queen’s Quay location. And this offers an additional advantage. “It’s just steps from Lake Ontario,” says Yvon Belair, Farm Boy’s vice president of operations. “When it warms up, customers can enjoy their meals at Sugar Beach across the street.”

Farm Boy started out as a simple 300 square meter farm stand in 1981 and has grown steadily ever since. It started in Cornwall, Ontario but now has 47 locations in that province and 18 in the GTA alone. “We’ve opened three new stores in the last three months,” says Belair, who was the company’s first employee in 1982.

Cook-in or take-out options

What’s driving the growth, Belair believes, is people’s desire for the freshest local produce, combined with Farm Boys’ successful mix of private label products you can’t get anywhere else (think salted peanut and caramel gelato, a Lebanese garlic sauce called Toum and sustainable seafood, just for starters), as well as its extensive menu of freshly prepared food. “We have a hot bar and a cold bar along with a seating area,” says Belair.

He points out that each day you can have a custom wok made fresh for you, sample General Tao chicken or ribs, grilled paninis or pizza, or stack a bin with offerings from the extensive salad bar. “A lot of people come for lunch or dinner,” says Belair. But there are also plenty of take-out options — for couples and families alike — like chicken dinners for two or (in February) a luxe beef tenderloin Valentine’s dinner.

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Core values ​​endure

But while the variety of products has expanded greatly since Farm Boy’s beginnings as a farmer’s stand, the company’s core values ​​have not changed. “Our goal is to offer fresh, local produce at a good price,” says Belair.

Over the years, the company has nurtured relationships with Ontario farmers, many of whom ship butcher-quality meat, artisanal cheeses, eggs and farm-fresh vegetables to stores on an almost daily basis. “We source cheese curds from a local company in Eastern Ontario and turkeys from a supplier near London,” says Belair. “The less time our goods are on the road, the fresher they get to us.” Vegetarians and vegans will also find a large selection of products to suit their taste and many organic options to choose from.

The stores also emphasize the kind of customer service you don’t always find at your local supermarket. “If customers don’t like a product – for whatever reason – we take it back,” says Belair. “And if a customer asks us how to find something, we don’t show it. We’ll take them there.”

The Sugar Wharf store, he adds, is the Farm Boy chain’s largest yet at nearly 30,000 square feet. But the design still manages to mimic the cozy intimacy of farm shops, with multiple self-contained areas ranging from a butcher to a bakery.

And although the new store is fairly close to another Farm Boy on Queen’s Quay, Belair believes it will quickly find its own clientele. “Toronto shoppers are coming to our stores more often for smaller orders,” says Belair. “Some of them come in once or twice a day, and a lot of them live nearby.” Because of this, Farm Boy is constantly changing the range of its hot and cold bars. “We don’t want people to get bored,” says Belair. “We always listen to our customers’ feedback and try to constantly improve.”

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