Local residents can only eat out so many times at the area's bars and restaurants. At some point, those pots and pans at home need to get some use - and for that to happen it's nice to have some nearby access to a good selection of healthy and nutritious food.
Open since mid-August in a location that was once a barbershop, Christian bookstore and parking ticket defense place (not all at the same time), The Nutritionista stocks organic and health food products that can't be found at the local Price Shopper and are much more competitively priced than the outrageous Organic Boutique on Queen West.
The small shop sells a smallish, but well chosen collection of fresh bread, kitchen cupboard staples including rice, pasta, cereal and soup, cold stuff such as milk and butter and snacks and sweets like chocolate, honey and cookies.
The Nutritionista was founded by local resident and Holistic Nutritionist Cathy Bouchard who recently took some time out to fill me in on more details about the store.
Why did you decide to open The Nutritionista?
As a nutritionist, I know that interest in healthy eating is growing. People want to be able to buy local, organic, healthy food at reasonable prices and not have to travel too far to get it. I've lived (and loved living) in this neighbourhood for years and have always felt that a store that carried natural necessities was missing. I guess I got tired of waiting for someone to open one - so I did it myself.
What have been some of your most popular products so far?
Definitely the Harmony Milk in the glass bottles. Sunflower Kitchen hummus and soups are also popular. There was a real need for natural cleaning products in this area, especially the Ecover laundry soap and dishwashing liquid. Little Stream Bakery bread comes fresh on Tuesdays. They have a great spelt hemp bread and a tasty rice loaf.
Do you have any additional plans for the store?
I will be getting a freezer very soon to be able to carry some organic meat and frozen fruit (berries etc). Bulk is also something that is in the works - organic nuts and grains as well as cleaning products and olive oil in bulk so that people can refill their own bottles. Anything I can do to help cut down on extra packaging.
Produce is something I would like to be able to offer in some way. I am working on a scheme with a Community Based Agricultural Program (CSA) so people will be able to pick up local, seasonal produce which would be delivered here each week. So far, there is a lot of interest but we will have to wait til June when the next season starts up.
What are some of the biggest challenges involved in starting a health food store?
The biggest challenge was prioritizing what to start off with stock-wise. I just wanted to fill the space but being on my own, budget held me back. I am slowly building now and things seem to be falling into place.
How did you decide which products to sell? Is it easy to get all the brands you want to stock?
As a nutritionist, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted in the store at the beginning. I didn't want anything too processed and wanted to offer things that I would recommend to people as healthy choices. Basically the healthy versions of everything that you would need to run to the corner store for. Then I wanted to leave it up to what the customers wanted. I have a request book that has been helpful and lets people give input on what they'd like to see in here.
At the time of this post, store hours of The Nutritionista are Tues - Thurs - 11 to 7, Fri - 11 - 7:30, Sat - 11 - 6 and Sun - 12 -5. The store is closed Mondays.