Every second Friday, a Montreal woman drives 40 minutes south to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu to shop for her groceries at Pasquier. Her neighbourhood has plenty of grocers, but nothing like the large independent market run by the Paquette family.

At 150,000 sq. ft., Pasquier is the largest independent food market in Quebec. Rather than being a food warehouse. Just like in a traditional marketplace with shops and stands. There is space laid out with uniqueness in shops and stands. This is including a bakery, butchery, cheese house, and condiments gift boutique.

“Locals are very proud of our store. It is to an extent that they bring their visiting relatives and friends just to see it,” Paquette says. “With 34,000 different products, we say you can tour the world of food in an hour at Pasquier.”

There’s a team always checking out the latest gourmet magazines. Also cooking shows, and chef recipe books to find out what is or is about to become a trend. Whether it’s hard to find Latin American Spice or the pink sea salt from Australia. The necessary ingredients are used for the shelf stockings. “We’re always talking to our distributors about what’s new or coming soon,” Paquette says.

At the same, the Paquette family has made a real commitment to promoting Quebec food. One reason is freshness. Sixty per cent of Pasquier’s inventory is perishable, a much higher proportion than at most other grocers. This is so that the store relies on excellent communication with its producers. Furthermore, the distributors to deliver fresh food as required.

“We’ve created a unique space for ourselves by having the variety and price points comparable to the big food warehouses, but with atmosphere, quality, and service that rival the smaller independents,” Paquette says.

The goal is always to go one step beyond the competition. For example, Pasquier readily promotes itself as “Quebec’s biggest steakhouse” with not only all kinds of speciality cuts. For perfectly aging for as long as a month, in addition to this a room where people are encouraged to leave their purchased steaks.

The patisserie goes well beyond a standard bakery and is ready to take special orders. The condiments boutique offers customized gift baskets featuring local jams, syrups, and other products.

Encouraged to take a break while the customers can have supper or lunch. Dedicated to the Trarroria is on the second storey, 10,000 sq. ft. There are also lots of takeout choices, with a salad bar, pasta bar, soup bar, sushi counter, sandwich deli, and pizzeria with a wood-burning oven.

Paquette is extremely proud of what his daughter, Annie, has done as marketing manager to engage people through the store’s website. The site provides all the basics about Pasquier but also features monthly recipes, food tips from top chefs, and a question-and-answer segment linked to Facebook.

People participated delightfully for the raising money for a local hospital, as a major tasting soiree was rallied.  “It’s very important to us for Pasquier to be a unique and important part of our community,” he says.

Key takeaways for convenience retailers:
Customize your offer. Determine and emphasize the products and services that set your store apart.
Go fresh. Make your store a destination by adding fresh grab-and-go options and local produce.
Keep current. Work with your distributor to ensure you have the new, exciting products your customers crave.
Get social. Use social media and an interactive website to keep your customers engaged outside the store.
Embrace your community. Participate in local events and fundraisers, and spend time getting to know your customers.

Courtesy: Julie Gedeon