When grocery day rolls around, we all have our go-to stores. And here in Simcoe County, there is a wonderful selection of grocers at just about every corner – Sobeys, Zehrs, Metro, and Foodland…just to name a few. Fresh fruit, fresh veggies, butcher counters, and cheese selections are beautifully prepared and displayed. Each grocer has a unique approach to food and customer service, so there’s no going wrong wherever you shop.
While many businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic, smaller independent grocers have not only survived – they’ve thrived. Country Produce, Orillia Bakery & Deli, The Rind and Truckle, Picnic, Burnetts Butcher Shop, Johnny’s Fresh Fish & Seafood, and Happy Mango are among these one-of-a-kind establishments. Each grocer has found its specialty niche and grown a strong customer base.
But how do they do it? Especially with the competition of larger supermarkets close by.
Shane Burnett started working at Brennen’s Meat Shop when he was only sixteen. It was one of the first butcher shops in Barrie and exposed him to the world of quality meat and top-notch customer service. “We knew our customers by name. We knew about their lives and families and what they had purchased in the past,” says Shane.
After working for a larger company, Shane realized there was something special about the personal relationships he formed at Brennen’s, and decided to go off on his own, founding Burnetts Butcher Shop on Byrne Drive in Barrie. “My goal is to build relationships with our community and bring the “Old School” butcher shop back,” Shane shares. And it’s paid off. In November 2021, Burnetts was voted the best butcher shop in Barrie. Visit Burnetts to find high-quality meats including local, free-range, Kingsway wagyu, local vendors, and more.
Orillia Bakery and Deli on Front Street South in Orillia is a family-owned business that opened in 1981 and has developed a loyal following for its baked goods, fine foods, and great deli selection. It has grown from a small business into a destination spot visited by out-of-towners. Owner Lisa Kostur, says their key to success is, “the quality of our products, the great service we provide, and reasonable pricing.” Lisa adds, the business has expanded drastically over the last few years.
At the bakery and deli, all bread products are manufactured on-site – but they also manufacture most of their own meat products as well.
Country Produce on Westmount Drive in Orillia was born from the same goal as other independent grocers – a passion for delivering top-quality foods. Their fresh produce along with the unique products that they carry has attracted a strong customer base. “Our focus has always been on local (when available) freshness and quality. We ensure freshness by visiting suppliers in the city almost daily – whether it be for fresh fish and seafood, fresh meat, or fresh farm eggs,” shares general manager Tammy Ward. All produce is hand-picked, while local and unique products are sourced by their team directly.
While they’re renowned for their fresh produce, customers have grown to love their prepared food section. Hearty meat pies, lasagna, shepherd’s pie, mac and cheese, and other comfort foods are available (and all made in-house). They also have a full deli and bakery.
The Rind & Truckle on Mississauga Street East in Orillia is the big cheese in town. This small artisanal cheese shop, owned by husband-and-wife duo Dan Boucher and Amy Robert, carries cheese, of course, plus hand-crafted works from local vendors and small-batch producers. What makes them special? “We mostly focus on artisanal cheeses from Ontario and Quebec. We source from small fromageries who have a bit of a story to them, products you couldn’t find at a grocery store,” says Amy. It’s not just about the cheese, but also their stories. Rind & Truckle has filled a gap in the Orillia food market that residents didn’t even know they had – and now, they can’t live without it.
So, whether you’re looking for specialty baked goods, cold-pressed juices, or a hot counter with home-cooked Italian foods, you won’t have to go far. Between our large grocers and small-town markets, there’s something for everyone.
Burnetts Butcher Shop
Orillia Bakery and Deli
The Rind & Truckle
Johnnys’ Fresh Fish & Seafood
Happy Mango Butchery
Picnic Tapas & Wine