The Sweet Potato
The Junction is emerging as the destination for the organically-inclined in Toronto. I visited the newly opened organic grocery store The Sweet Potato on a cold Tuesday morning and was immediately warmed up.
The grocer advertises "natural foods... sweet prices." I am often sceptical of reasonably priced organic food but this time the claim rings true. Everything from organic grape tomatoes ($1.99 for 1 pint) to pure organic agave sweetener ($6.79) is no more expensive - and often cheaper - than you'll find at the big box grocers.
The prices are a result of bulk buying (there's a large storage area in the basement) by owner Digs Dorfman, who has run the High Park Organic Market for two years. He's also reduced overhead with used and recycled refrigerators and shelves, and buys as much as possible from small, local vendors who do not supply the big grocery stores.
I find competitive prices on the usual suspects, such as Amy's Organics or Wolfgang Puck's canned soups ($2.99/can) as well as on local products, such as Toronto Sprouts ($0.99/package). I also find organic PEI pre-washed potatoes ($1.99 for a 1.5 pound bag), organic baby carrots (2/$3.00 on 1 pound bags) and an extensive selection of Celestial Seasonings tea ($1.99/box, all sizes) and bulk coffee.
One friendly employee points out that The Sweet Potato is not a caf? or health food store; it's a grocery store. This emphasis is evident in the full range of products: produce, canned and dry foods, perishables like milk, eggs and cheese, baby food (Earth's Best jars are 2 for $1.50), diapers, as well as cleaning, beauty and paper kitchen and bath products.
I spot several organic tofu options and a mix of faux "meats." Non-vegetarians will be pleased, though, that they will not feel out of place with packaged deli meats from the local Beretta Organic Farms.
With Alice's Farm Baked Pies supplying homebaked goodies, I find on my visit the carrot nut and pineapple zucchini are as tempting as the banana loaves (all $6.99 each), as are the bumbleberry and wild blueberry pies ($9.99 each).
The store's biggest hurdle so far has been underestimating its popularity; many of the usual baked goods were not available as vendors took a break for the Easter weekend while The Sweet Potato remained open and bustling.
There's also a take away counter offering sandwiches, wraps, coffee, tea, fresh juices and smoothies. I enjoyed a mango colada smoothie ($4.99) and noted I could also opt for protein and medicinal varieties, or build my own. Future plans include adding prepared foods like hummus and rice dishes. Expect the goods in 6-8 weeks, when production levels can be increased.
The Sweet Potato sees itself as one part of a thriving community. They complement efforts by other local businesses, such as The Beet, but also offer what nobody else does: An organic grocery store that could replace your regular grocery store. And with summer's fresh local produce around the corner, I've got one more reason to make The Sweet Potato my first stop.