The Market on Millstream: A community-oriented hub for food producers and consumers

image of Canadian Federation of Independent GrocersIncreasingly, I find myself thinking about food security, and the people and businesses who support local farmers and food producers.  The Market on Millstream is one such business.

In late 2009, The Market on Millstream, a local grocery store where I live, was named Canadian Independent Grocer of the Year, in the medium surface category, by The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG).  Recipients of the award were judged on retailing excellence and innovation, store team performance, customer service, space usage, food quality and cleanliness.

The Market on Millstream (The Market) is co-owned/operated by Christine and Darryl Hein.  It is a branch of the Market on Yates, a downtown Victoria grocery store, founded by Ernie Skinner’s (who was previously co-founder of the popular Thrifty’s Foods chain).  I spent some time recently chatting with Darryl about his store.

The store opened three years ago, in Langford’s big box zone, a suburban community.  Although located in a suburban setting, it really is a neighbourhood grocer, family-oriented; serving the local, growing West Shore population.

Picture of Darryl Hein

Darryl Hein in his store’s produce section

The Market has good proximity to local fruit and vegetable producers, and gives priority to local producers; both to support the local community, and to limit the carbon footprint.  Local products include honey, cheese, poultry, eggs, fruits.

Local producers bring their produce to store, and assuming price & quality are worked out, The Market retails the produce.  Longer-term business relationships between the store and local producers are linked to customer demand.

In response to customer interests, The Market also imports produce, especially at times of year where local produce is in low supply or unavailable.

In the workplace

Darryl is most proud of the relationships that have developed; evidenced by:

  • Staff satisfaction; The Market has very low staff turnover, even by CFIG standards
  • Customer support and loyalty; staff happiness = customer happiness

Every day Darryl touches base, in-person, with each staff person working that day.  Recognition is important.  (note: appreciation may be the most significant human psychological need!)

Myself, I felt a good vibe in the store.  Just before leaving, I picked up a few perishables.  Sara, who was handling my checkout, was pleasant and relaxed throughout, even though checkout volume was high at the time.  I certainly felt welcomed and appreciated as a customer.

Business adaptation

The Market has about 100 staff, deals with 200+ vendors, and stocks approximately 50 new items each week.  Staying current in the marketplace is a challenge.  Darryl visits other independent grocers, attends conventions (e.g., CFIG in Toronto), connects and networks, as part of the larger independent grocer community, learning together.

Picture of Darryl & Christine Heing

Going forward, it will be interesting to see how The Market adapts to changing business conditions and customer interests.  To what extent can The Market continue to innovate, satisfy a triple bottom line (people, planet, profit), and strengthen its position as the heartbeat of the local community?



Neighbourhood grocers like The Market are in a unique position.  They bridge the interests of customers, farmers/food producers, and local community values.  The importance of this type of relationship I touched on, in a previous post, here.

My sense is Darryl and Christine will continue to be a vital cog in the local community, and your friendly neighbourhood grocer.

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  1. Was just there today for lunch & shopping, have been a faithfull (small) customer since they opened, deli sandwiches were always good except today, both of our sandwiches had only about 1/2 the meat that they normally put in?? Went to their coffee vending machine put in $2.00 for a cappuccino and got about 1″ of coffee, informed a member of staff who said I must have pressed the wrong button?? No, I’ve used machine before, well that’s all it does!! So feeling badly treated I sat down and ate my sandwich then watched someone else do the same thing, they approached a diff. staff member and was about to get into the same sort of discussion as I had had, I went over and said that the same thing happened to me, they called customer service…person never showed up after a while the 2nd. Coffee machine customer went to customer service counter and got their $2.00 back.. My wife and I just left the store…. I doubt if we will go back..they just don’t seem to care very much!! Maybe they don’t need us?

  2. Unfortunate situation you experienced… Maybe you want to contact the store, with a message similar to what you’ve shared with me? Sharing of stories, on both sides, is part of finding common ground, and moving forward in constructive ways… assuming you’re open to that. Best of luck.

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