St. James shop offers tastes of Britain


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St. James-Assiniboia

If you’ve been searching for some Curly Wurlies, Yorkies or — for talking-bear-with-bucket-hat-and-wellies types — some top-notch English marmalade, then look no further. The British Food Co., a store dedicated to British goods, has opened at 3125 Portage Ave.

In October, Sam Mendis opened the shop, which is managed by her husband Sean Mendis, seeing a hole in the Winnipeg market.

“I said OK, Winnipeg, we don’t have a store like this … You have other foods, but not British!” said Sam, pointing out that the void has existed since Marks & Spencer closed its Winnipeg shop in 2000.

While Sam was not born a Brit, she spent time in her 20s in London and she said it holds a special place in her heart and her husband’s connection to the British Isles runs deep, as he grew up and went to school in the United Kingdom.

The shop is Sam’s second enterprise in the St. James-Assiniboia community. Her first was Mr. D’s Tart-N-Pie, which was not strictly British food but featured many meat pies that might well have been found in an English bakery.

Sam said she’s drawn to British foods for their quality.

“I think everything is so special, because even in their candies, the first ingredient is milk and then sugar. Even these soups have much less salt and the sugar is quite low,” she said.

Many people who are either British expats or have spent time in Britain have frequented the shop in its first three months, Sam said.

“They say, ‘Oh, we used to have this!’ And they are so excited about it,” she said.

Customer John Chabih fits that bill exactly. He came in looking for a dandelion and burdock soda, a drink consumed in the British Isles since the Middle Ages, though it has evolved from a type of mead into a soda in modern times.

“I grew up in England. So it just revitalizes some of my childhood memories — the chips and stuff. It’s memories, but it’s also quality stuff,” he said.

Sean said he thinks certain products, particularly the teas, benefit from a strong heritage.

“The thing is these English companies have been there forever. They don’t change hands. They always pass down their master blends. The great-grandfather built it and all the kids are running the companies,” he said.

Sean said before the shop opened Winnipeggers still sought out British goods. However, they either had to search them out at a variety of stores, or they had to order online. Chabih said he had been ordering the goods he now buys at the British Food Co. online, and that the prices are similar in the shop.

The shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Cody Sellar

Cody Sellar
Community Journalist

Cody Sellar is the reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review West. He is a lifelong Winnipegger. He is a journalist, writer, sleuth, sloth, reader of books and lover of terse biographies. Email him at or call him at 204-697-7206.

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