Another fruitful season begins for local market
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/05/2021 (735 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
St. Vital and St. Boniface residents can tell when spring arrives – it’s when Jardins St-Léon Gardens at 419 St. Mary’s Rd. opens for the season.
Established by Lise Mulaire and Denis Rémillard in the early 1990s,the business has been run by their children Janelle, Luc and Colin, along with cousin Daniel Rémillard, for the past five years, gradually expanding their products and services each year.
Colin looks after marketing and public relations. Interviewed on a hot, sunny afternoon while staff unloaded bags of soil and customers lined up to enter the market, he was pleased to talk about the business’ most recent growth. The partners now own the entire building that shares their parking lot. Colin said it contains their office, storage space, a large cooler and can be used for staff meetings.
“We decided to paint the building barn red because we want to have a barn on the property,” he joked.
At this time of year, approximately half of sales come from their garden section, whicht features a large selection of floral and vegetable bedding plants, hanging baskets, and gardening equipment and supplies. Colin said the 50/50 revenue split between garden and food products usually changes in late June, which is around the time they begin stocking their best-seller – locally-grown strawberries. He said strawberry season only lasts two or three weeks but by the time it ends, shelves and bins are filled with a selection of Manitoba vegetables, followed by tree fruit from B.C. and Ontario.
Jardins St-Léon Gardens normally stays open until the Thanksgiving weekend, finishing up with fall root crops and pumpkins.
Colin said the family business dates back to 1979, when his parents started a market garden in St. Léon, Man. It was a venture designed to offer employment and training for local youth. It operated for 10 years until the lake used for irrigation dried up. The couple then moved their business into Winnipeg and began offering produce grown by Manitoba farmers.
Their children grew up helping out, and that work prepared them for of taking over in 2016. Colin said they have added dry goods made by local producers in recent years, including coffee, flour, condiments, honey and preserves. Baked goods such as sourdough bread, bagels, croissants, muffins, pies and cookies made by St. Pierre Bakery, Hildegard’s Bakery, Red Spring Bakery and Hudson Bagels are available. Fridges and freezers are stocked with meat, cheese, pizza, perogies, ice cream and other items.
Jardins St-Léon Gardens is open seven days a week, and Colin said their primary aim is to serve their longtime customers, many of whom live in the neighbourhood and cycle or walk to the market.
Having to abide by COVID restrictions in 2020, and even tighter restrictions at this season, Colin said the business is taking all precautions possible to ensure the health of their staff and customers.
The pandemic has actually helped Jardins St-Léon Gardens, as people seek out locally-grown and produced foods.
“We’re riding this ‘buy local’ wave,” Colin said.
The business is also a grocery store and garden centre – two essential services, according to provincial guidelines.
Beginning last year, the partners have worked to launch and improve their online grocery business. Colin said being able to order groceries online and use curbside pick-up appeals to a segment of customers who aren’t comfortable with in-person shopping.
However, he knows that about three-quarters of their customers enjoy coming in to see what’s new in the produce aisle.
“Most people want to have the shopping experience.”
Colin said the challenge is to keep offering high-quality produce and other food products at reasonable prices.
“Our goal is to keep things affordable and accessible.”
For more information about Jardins St-Léon Gardens, see www.stleongardens.com
Andrea Geary is a community correspondent for St. Vital. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Vital community correspondent
Andrea Geary is a community correspondent for St. Vital and was once the community journalist for The Headliner.