Montreal’s only all-organic grocer has a feel-good backstory

Aug 11 2020, 7:41 am

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What would you do if you couldn’t find quality food in the city where you live?

This was precisely the dilemma facing local food purveyors, Jeff and Deva Asch, owners of Montreal’s organic grocer, EcollegeY, as young students in late 90s Montreal.

Growing tired of tasteless fresh produce, overpriced organic options, and meat full of antibiotics, they set out to meet with local farmers and create an organic delivery service right out of their garage.

 

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We caught up with Jeff for all the details. “We were all students at the time. I would hire my friends and we would sell products that were ecologically friendly,” he says. 

Within six months, the innovators knew they’d struck a chord with the local community and were able to transform a nearby corner into their very own storefront. Today, they’re Montreal’s only all-organic grocery store and delivery service.

From the very beginning, Asch felt he was destined for entrepreneurship. Rather than setting out to make financial gains, early on his mind was set on a business model that would actually benefit the planet.

“Anybody can open up a Tim Horton’s or a Dunkin’ Donut, but that doesn’t benefit society or the world. I just always felt that if I was going to start a business, I’d like it to be something I could be proud of,” says Asch.

 

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The store’s focus has always been on making fresh, premium quality produce and meats affordable and accessible to the local community. Sustainability is also inherently at the core of what they do as their business model revolves around eliminating animal cruelty and harmful herbicides and pesticides.

“Producing food organically is as green and sustainable as you can possibly get,” says Asch.

Located centrally on Monkland Avenue, the husband and wife duo do their best to keep their “mom-and-pop shop” super local and support their loyal and tightly knit customer base.

The relationship with their distributors is no different, as they’ve gone to great lengths to carefully select and forge meaningful bonds with the local organic farmers with whom they work. On this subject, the Aschs believe that their growers “care as much about how they treat their land and livestock as you do about feeding your family.”

 

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Recalling a road trip through Alberta and British Columbia he and his wife took years ago, Asch likens the experience of plucking cherries from road-side trees to the quality of produce locals will find at EcollegeY.

Recounting the story, Asch says “there was something special about the organic [cherries on the side of the road]. And I find that with everything we carry.”

As you can imagine, the pandemic has presented its own set of challenges for the local business owners, ultimately prompting them to temporarily shut their doors and transition to pickup and delivery.

“The last three months have been, quite frankly, they’ve been brutal” mentions Asch when describing the massive undertaking of completely converting their retail operation into a home delivery and pickup service.

 

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But, even so, the local entrepreneur’s optimism shines through as he compares recent events to a tornado that struck the business a few years back. “We survived that, so I figure we’ll do just fine after this,” he says.

Despite the recent (metaphorical) turbulent winds, the business opened its doors to the public again earlier this month.

With anticipation, they’re also looking forward to launching a new website in the hopes of making online shopping even easier for customers.

 

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Above all, the business owners are feeling hopeful that their loyal customers will continue to help them navigate tough times and be understanding of any changes.

This is just another test. It’s something unusual and it’s been a big strain on everybody, but I think we’re coming through it pretty well, actually,” offers Asch. 

As usual, the business will remain committed to nourishing their business, customers, and planet. If you’re looking to bring your meals to life with local organic products, you can shop their online store 24/7.


Whether you’re picking up your grocery basket at EcollegeY or shopping inside at a safe distance, getting there in a vehicle like the new all-electric MINI Cooper SE lets you do this with low impact, zero emissions, and instant acceleration due to battery-powered driving technology.

MINI Canada and the MINI Electric lineup are passionate about making tomorrow’s urban living environment a more sustainable place. To discover how MINI Electric can get you around the city in eco-friendly style, click here.

This content was created by Hive Labs in partnership with a sponsor
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