A landmark local outdoor market is now up and running for the season.
Jardins St. Léon Gardens, located at 419 St. Mary’s Rd., opened its doors on May 9. The team includes owners Lise Mulaire and Denis Rémillard, several family members and some seasonal staff.
Their nephew and the market’s manager, Daniel Rémillard, 32, has been involved with the family business, in some capacity, since he was 15. The Riverview resident said the story of the evolution of the business is bittersweet, although what has ultimately been St. Léon’s loss has certainly been Winnipeg’s gain.
The market started in 1979 in St. Léon, located in the Pembina Valley southwest of the city, as an entrepreneurial youth project with the goal of keeping kids in town busy and teaching them the fundamentals of running a small business, Rémillard said. In 1989, however, the lake that irrigated the business dried up, so his aunt and uncle sold everything, relocated to Winnipeg and eventually set up a permanent seasonal stand on St. Mary’s Road. The rest, as they say, is history.
Talking a break from the swirl of activity at the market site the night before the business was set to open for the season, Rémillard told The Lance the stocking and selling process moves in stages as the season changes from spring to summer.
"For the first six weeks, we’ll start off with bedding plants. We’ve also got some tomatoes in today and the asparagus might be ready next week. After this, we’ll become a full-blown outdoor market with a full range of fruits and vegetables," Rémillard said, noting the business is supplied by numerous local producers, as well as importing berries and stone fruits from areas such as B.C. when they’re in season.
In terms of big crops, customers can expect to see strawberries by the beginning of July, and there will also be a large selection of items such as new potatoes, beans, peas, corn, and carrots — to name a few — as well as wild organic blueberries handpicked in the bush.
Community members will also get a chance to pick up a selection of other goods when things are in full swing, which will include items such as fresh breads and baguettes baked daily, cheeses and homemade jams.
Rémillard said his family is always happy to hear suggestions and feedback from the community.
"It’s dear to our hearts to be able to sell this produce in the community. We are definitely consumer-led, as every profitable business has to be driven that way. We get tons of feedback all the time," he said.
Members of the green-thumbed team are also available to provide lawn care services and spring yard cleanups to homeowners, which include power-raking, aeration and fertilizing.
"Two crews of guys will fertilize your gardens and provide a general spring cleanup. A lot of people don’t have the time to do this nowadays, so they pay us to do it," Rémillard said.
For more information, go online at stleongardens.com or call the business at 204-237-7216.