It’s taken a little more than a year, but the Carriage House Market in Powassan is now open for business.
Co-owner Greg King had a soft opening for the food market during the Labour Day long weekend, saying he intentionally did little advance promotion.
His rationale was that local residents had watched the construction and were anxiously anticipating the opening, and he didn’t want to be overwhelmed.
“As it was, the Saturday opening was still very busy, but it was manageable,” King said.
The Carriage House Market, located at 61 Memorial Park Dr. W, is about 1,400 square feet in size. Roughly half of the building is available for customers to select and buy their food, while the other half includes a fully functional commercial kitchen and staff working area.
The Carriage House Market sells locally canned goods, in addition to most vegetables, and King says right now is the prime of the harvest season.
That means customers will easily find an abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, garlic, zucchini, and corn.
King owns Roots and Roost Farm in Trout Creek and is the largest corn producer in the region next to Leisure Farms in Sturgeon Falls.
Meat products include lamb, beef, and pork, in addition to chicken.
The chickens are provided by Linda and Harold Beatty of Alpaca Springs Farm in Powassan, who own the other 50 per cent of the food market shop.
When King acquired the land last year, an old, small wooden barn sat on it. The barn was used by a country doctor decades ago to hold the horse and buggy he used for his house calls.
The barn was known locally as the carriage house and King’s original plan was to renovate it.
However, during the rezoning stage, it was learned it would cost a considerable amount to bring the former carriage house up to present building code standards.
King decided it was best to tear it down and put up a new building on the same spot.
He reused as much of the old lumber as possible, including the carriage house’s former front doors, which are now on the inside of the new building and part of the decor.
In addition to being able to preserve some of the former barn’s history by repurposing the wood, King named the business the Carriage House Market to preserve the name locals had come to call the building.
King also is striking deals with other area farmers to help stock the Carriage House Market, since there is only so much food his farm can produce.
“We’re not a co-op but rather more like a hub where we want to bring food from other areas,” he said.
This means the food market will stock food grown not only in Nipissing District but anywhere in northern Ontario, with nothing from the south.
The Carriage House Market will be open year-round and King has taken steps to ensure there is always a ready supply of food.
“We bought a blast chiller, which was a major investment, where we flash freeze vegetables,” he said.
“So if a farmer has too much of something, they can sell it to us instead of letting it go to waste. We then freeze the product with the blast chiller and sell it during the winter.”
King says he has already used the blast chiller to freeze about 50 pounds of snow peas and soon, he’ll be freezing other veggies such as corn and beans.
“We’re also putting up a greenhouse so we can provide fresh food later into the year and also earlier into the following year,” King said.
He said he lucked out over the summer when he hired a chef to work on his farm, who has now moved to the food market. One of his responsibilities is breaking down the chickens into their various parts for sale. He’s also creating chicken and vegetable skewers, which King said will grow as farmers provide more meat.
King wants to emphasize that the intention is not for the Carriage House Market to compete or hurt the farm stands that are popular in the Powassan area.
“The farmstand tour is an experience we don’t want to take away from anyone,” he said.
“If people want to do the farmstand tour, that’s great. From our perspective, we simply provide a convenient location and do what you can’t do on the farm stand, like making lunches, canning, and freezing food that is sold over the winter.”
A food product King had no intention of selling was coffee, but all that changed when the River Stone Cafe in Powassan closed just before the Labour Day weekend.
King bought the coffee shop’s equipment, including the espresso machine and various coffee makers, in addition to the remaining coffee stock.
He’s now talking to local coffee producers to provide him with coffee beans moving forward.
Building the Carriage House Market has allowed King to turn what were normally seasonal jobs on his farm into permanent ones. He also has added two part-time positions because, in addition to being open year-round, the intent for the foreseeable future is to be open seven days a week.
When King first started the food market initiative about a year ago, he hoped the total costs would come in just under $100,000.
However, COVID-19 created delays in some building supplies, and then he bought the extra food-related equipment for the business.
The result is a price tag that’s about double what he first projected.
But King says all the work is complete and with the business now open, he can add to it here and there if consumer demand warrants it.
Going back to the soft opening over the long weekend, King says he got a lot of positive comments from consumers that day, and that positivity continues.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.