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Mark McEwan predicts that Torontonians will “get” his North York version of Dean & Deluca

Mark McEwan, shopkeep

Mark McEwan, shopkeep (Photo by Nikki Leigh McKean)

We’ve been hearing about McEwan—Mark McEwan’s proposed gourmet grocery store—for what seems like eons now. News about it broke in late 2007, with an opening date set for January 2009. But then we were told we’d have to wait another five months. Now, even though controversy is brewing over the store’s gentrifying effects, we are told that the suspense is almost over. Come June, the Bymark chef will open the doors to his supermarket at Lawrence and Don Mills. He envisions the size of his store as somewhere between Pusateri’s and Whole Foods, with aisles of gourmet ingredients and prepared foods tended by employees offering restaurant-style service.

McEwan thinks the popular big-box outlets—think Metro and Loblaws—have it all wrong. “You walk into a large grocery store, and they’re selling housewares. There are so many items on the shelves that you can’t find anything.” These one-stop-shop outlets are at one end of Toronto’s grocery spectrum, while the other extreme is occupied by artisanal shops that provide few products and suit fewer budgets. McEwan wants to occupy the middle ground. He cites SoHo’s Dean & Deluca as the project’s inspiration, however, so expect steep prices.

“Toronto is a very savvy town. People are highly discriminating and well versed, and I think they’ll totally get it,” says the chef. Even the anticipated opening of a Whole Foods at Avenue Yonge and Sheppard hasn’t fazed him: “If I felt there was an abundance of good product out there, I probably wouldn’t be opening a store.”

So how does he plan to pull this off? With an army of 100 employees. “I’m looking for management on the floor to behave like restaurant management,” he says. And he’s not kidding; host-like figures who will watch the door and orient new customers are part of the plan.

The long wait has reportedly been due to construction delays, not the sluggish economy. And despite rumours that the upcoming location is the first of four, McEwan is making no hasty plans: “I never talk about the next one till the first one’s running well.” Good news for Don Mills dwellers. The rest of us will have to sit tight.

  • Shaun

    This will be a major test of the climate. Lest we forget, a similar North Toronto project — the massive David Wood Food Shop near Yonge & Blythewood — was killed by the recession of 1991, and it took down the whole company (three stores total, plus a highly successful catering business). There was no competition from Whole Foods back then (though there was one Pusateri’s). The world is retrenching; probably not the best time to open luxury grocery.

  • Amanda

    I am confused….you cite a potential Whole Foods opening at Avenue and Sheppard (Ave ends at the 401). I would be very excited about a Whole Foods opening in this area. However, the article you cite is from 2 years ago and indicates that the location they are considering is at Ave & Lawrence (yay!) but unfortunately, that local is no longer available. A new Shoppers Drug Mart opened there a few months ago. I guess we will be waiting for McEwan to open his store and driving all the way to Don Mills if we want to avoid the parking nightmare at Pusateri’s….or more likely, just walk to Pusateri’s.

  • Marie

    There is a whole new mall complex with a small-town main street feel supposedly going in at Don Mills/Lawrence replacing the old Don Mills Centre. At least that’s what the drawings portrayed 3 years ago. The site is still under construction when I pass by. He just might make it work based on the fact that the Bridal Path and Post Road homedwellers are just around the corner so they might find it an easier trek than to Yonge/Sheppard to Whole Foods.

  • Bad Self

    I don’t think that in a city as underserved as Toronto is for convenient (ie: don’t need to get in your dirty ass car) fine food, that a Dean and Deluca type of thing is luxury at all! It is a necessity and this is the only metropolis I’ve been to that is so hostile to making good food part of *everyday life*.

    Problem is that he’s opening it in the suburbs. Lifestyle mall (the new Don Mills center – to be modeled on the Park Royal Village thingy in West Van) or not – this choice of location is profoundly anti-urban. Poor Toronto.

  • Lauren

    I think it is fabulous, where can I send my resume. I am one of the 100 foodsentric individuals he is looking to hire.

  • Lauren

    I love, love, love it! Where can I send my resume. I am one of the 100 foodsentric individuals Mark is looking for.

  • evangeline

    where can i send my resume im planning to apply if theres any position availabe..

  • Grant

    This place is the creme de la creme of food stores i mean i went in it today even though its not open, i was there to be hired. But beside the point is this is high quality at its best.

  • Tudor

    Prepared foods are top quality. I highly recommend giving them a try.

  • Robbie

    Just checked out the new store! Wow lots and lots of space to shop! Major set backs when compared to Pusateri’s and Whole Foods, not worth the wait. I wish them all the best!

  • WP

    What! North York version of Dean & Deluca? You must be joking here. It really can’t compare to Dean & Deluca in New York. Where are the imported high-end and gourmet foods? Wonderbread! it’s not worth the wait. I really can’t feel the restaurant-quality meals. :(

  • Olivier

    Just been to the store and I have to say that it is looking really nice. It is a welcome addition to the Shops at Don Mills and to the community at large. I will definitely shop here for those grocery items not found elsewhere in the neighbourhood; in the general vicinity we already have plenty of grocery stores: Longo’s, Metro, Superstore, Shopper’s, Walmart and Iqbal’s. McEwan’s variety and selection of products is definitely refreshing and will undoubtedly cater to the grocery foodies in the area.

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  • Elle

    If you expect, great service, short lines, fantastic food.. ten don’t waste your time and go here…

    I gave his store severeal chances, everytime I found a problem. Shelves were empty, product wasn’t available, staff were rude and ignorant, lines were really slow. I bought some soup which were over priced and some pre-packaged foods. very very disappointing. The soups were too creamy and salt. The food needed to be salted and the heating instructions over cooked and dried out my pasta.

    The third time i came i made it a point to speak with a manager. He was a tall skinny, blond guy, who said he was the front manager. I told him about what i experienced and simply responded back with there isn’t anything i can do, its our chef who controls that.

    I would never recommend this place to anyone.

  • rinku

    I have been to McEwan Foods several times and like their product selection. In their grocery section there is a product brand named PERFECT TASTE that produces GLUTEN & PRESERVATIVE-FREE, homemade Curry Sauce, Curry Powder, Dry Rub, Hot Sauce, Sate/Mole Sauce and mustards…they are to die for!!…delicious & nutritious…the best part – locally made!!

  • Sandra Meers

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    My company produces sea salt from the sea waters of the unique Bay of Fundy,which as you probably nknow is now being considered as one of Canada’s natural wonders. as a new company, I am seeking your participation in the rollout of of my product,which I expect to be tremendously I’m sure you are aware the bay of funding is home to name is home tobay ofsome of the best scallops and lobsterin the world and and lobster, both gourmet specialties for chefs worldwide.

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