First look inside Mark McEwan’s gourmet grocery store

First look inside Mark McEwan’s gourmet grocery store

Large and in charge: Mark McEwan oversees the preparations for the opening of his new grocery store (Photo by Karon Liu) 

Chef Mark McEwan (North 44°, Bymark) gave us an exclusive tour of his eponymous grocery store at the Shops at Don Mills, just as the shelves were being stocked and excited employees were scanning products into the store database. The 20,000-square-foot space is predominantly occupied by counters serving charcuterie, baked goods, seafood and cheese, as well as shelves of house-made (there’s a large kitchen upstairs) sauces, pickled vegetables, soups and prepared meals made from McEwan’s restaurant recipes. There will also be a counter selling chocolates stocked by the Belgian chocolatier Galler, which McEwan discovered while vacationing in Florida a year and a half ago. The store will also be selling the chef’s new line of kitchenware.

“I visited supermarkets in Paris and Milan and noticed that they’re a lot smaller, and people would buy only what they need for the next few days,” he says, adding that he modelled his store on those ones. “It’s very different from the 100,000-square-foot supermarkets in North America where they have giant aisles of processed and prepackaged food. I think Metro and my store are at opposite ends of the spectrum.”

His biggest worry isn’t whether Torontonians will bite at the idea of a gourmet supermarket (McEwan emphasizes that the prices are competitive and his coffee is 25 per cent cheaper than Starbucks’), but rather whether the computer systems will work. “It’s going to be a month of hell. There are 3,000 items, each with a UPC code, so it’s a huge undertaking. That’s going to determine whether we open Thursday or Friday morning.”

In the end, the store opened Friday morning.