I absolutely love the Depanneur. I think Len Senater is a local food hero. He has truly revolutionized the notion of a corner store by returning the concept to what it once was. (See? Everything old really is new again.)

When Len and I lived in Montreal (we didn't know one another well, but our circles happily overlapped), the "depanneur" or the "dep" was the corner store where you went to get locally bottled cheap imported wine, cigarettes, a  box of (usually) stale crackers and not much else. When Len took over the lease at his joint on Havelock and College, the place was a veritable dump. I could not believe it. But Len's face was all shiny and new and full of optimism. I, on the other hand, could barely breathe in there. Len and his pal renovated the place physically, but while he was chipping away at the paint on the walls, Len was also chipping away at the traditional notions of a corner store. Instead of poisons like industrial candy and tobacco, Len was going to sell sour dough breads and organic vegetables. Instead of trashy magazines and porn, Len was offering serious food journals. And instead of a sorry patty reheated to within an inch of its life, Len served frittatas and wicked grilled cheese. In short he renovated the corner store, in form and in content. The Dep also features cookery classes and makes for an amazing venue for a private party.

Len is currently looking for someone to manage the corner store part of his operation as he has his hands full with running the Dep's two kitchens, his remarkably successful and rather uniquely public supper club, the Rusholme Park, as well as his runaway success Drop-in Dinners. So, when Len asks for help? We all chip in. Alimentary's Toronto Office Markets wouldn't have been half as successful were it not for the brilliant support Len has quietly offered food start-ups with his kitchens by renting them commercial kitchen space. I call this small businesses weaving into one another to build resilience, to make it harder for strong winds to blow us away...
Len's ask is that we help promote the Dep. How can we refuse? 

Drop-in Dinners
Thurs Feb 21: Breakfast for Dinner! Cheddar, kale and apple stuffed french toast & fixings by Olivia Simpson
Fri Feb 22: Roast chicken with clemintines, fennel and ouzo, root veg stew by Megan Kalaman
Rusholme Park Supper Club Dinners
Sat Feb 23: Butter Love with Lauren Eden Jones
Sun Feb 24: African Liberation Dinner by Kalmplex
Sat Mar 2: Titanic: the Last Supper by Kendra Simmonds
Sat Mar 24: Korean Lunar New Year Temple Feast by Jonna Pederson
Sat Apr 6: For the Love of Tea by Carol Mark
More information here

Constance Dykkun is another local food entrepreneur who is a mover and shaker. Her concept of the corner store resides on 639 Annette Street in Annette Village. It's called Crème Fraîche Market Café. It's another corner store revolution. 

Constance's dad was a grocer in Toronto when Constance was a wee tot, so she grew up in the grocery business. Her dad's business would deliver groceries to families in the neighbourhood. Well, everything old really is new again, because that's exactly what Constance plans to do with her local food market. Home delivery is set to begin in the spring.

Like Len, Constance is also offering fresh produce, locally produced artisanal foods, as well as offering a bite or two in case you get peckish in the shop. Constance is a veteran market vendor, selling for Monforte Dairy for a number of years. Now, Constance is combining her marketing know-how to sell the delicious foods of local producers in a convenient neighbourhood market location. Constance intends to offer a bicycle delivery service as well, so that as was the case in my neighbourhood in the London NW3, when a friend happily drops by unexpectedly, you could ring up your local food purveyor, and here order some Nice Buns gluten-free foccacia, some Monforte cheese, some Pingue prosciutto and a selection of locally produced organic produce and voilà, an amazing offering and you've not lifted a finger. In the UK, we were also able to add a bottle of wine to that order. Sigh. Who knows? Maybe that's in the offing too?

Constance is also pioneering local market tables in offices. Toronto Office Markets has moved out of the pilot phase and is now offering markets to buildings and businesses interested in incorporating good food into their corporate culture. One of the discoveries we made during the pilot was that we need a minimum of 800 people and/or a public space in which to conduct the market in order to ensure enough business for the vendors. Some offices, though, are too small to support a full office market, but really want to be able to offer their tenants or staff a local food offering. So, Constance is offering small offices a market table: a selection of the great food items from her shop in the lobby of your office building. 

Len Senater and Constance Dykkun: two local food heroes disrupting the concept of the corner store. 

Photo Credit: Ate By Ate Scrapbooking.