No one likes change. My aged mother-in-law was horrified when she heard ownership had changed at our local Independent grocery store. Each Sunday since the new owner, Jeff Mitchell, took over our Carleton Place, Ontario store, she has grilled me about the status. Is that nice butcher Glen still there? Is the iconic Brian still working in the store helping everyone?
Others asked, and wondered, what the newcomer and new owner of Mitchell’s Independent had in store for our little town. Mitchell is no stranger to the Independent Grocer family. Even though there is a great story written about him somewhere online, I knew I had to find out for myself what Jeff Mitchell was all about.
In the back of my mind I expected to meet someone quite different. Even though he claims he can retire, he could have fooled me. Along with his youthful appearance, his attitude is, that grocery shopping shouldn’t be considered a form of punishment. Not only is customer service at the top of his list, customer awareness, and education, are key components of success for the store.
I had noticed the changes a few weeks ago. There seemed to be more simplified language, and clearer signage in the store. Even the produce at the front was displayed in a more attractive way. Just by a few changes, I immediately understood, that Jeff ensures that every kid who comes through the door knows the way to the fruit section. He already knows the inner workings of our grocery store having been a district manager for our Carleton Place location for years. Jeff has over 40 years of experience in the grocery business, beginning his employment as a humble buggy boy.
There are big plans for the store, with the downsizing of the “general merchandise dept.” to make way for a 5000 sq foot Joe Fresh store. For anyone who has not seen their catchy television ads, Joe Fresh is a Canadian chain created by Loblaws featuring hip, trendy apparel and accessories for men, women and kids. The company has also just signed a deal with Aldo Group shoes for the design of all Joe Fresh’s footwear, which will be introduced in spring of 2016.
The ‘fresh food section’ as he calls it is also going to have a new look. The salad bar, brand new cheeses, and it’s all about the new Sikorski sausage being introduced to the store. Jeff has a mission that the big empty room upstairs is finally going to be used for the community. “What’s For Dinner” will be held every Tuesday with samplings of food items, accompanied by recipes, and teaching customers how to prepare unfamiliar foods. Birthday parties, cooking classes, are also on the community development list. They are also looking for a local web page developer for the store, so if you think you can keep up to Jeff and his ideas, please contact him.
You can feel the passion he has about about the food service business as well as the love for his family. He is a proud Grandfather, has two grown children, Crystal, 33, and Jeff, 30, and has been married for 35 years. His wife also works at the store as a bookkeeper and partner. They always wanted to settle in the country, and now finally, they have 2 acres on the 9th line.
Jeff wants you to know he doesn’t have to do this. He is pensionable as he says, but has always dreamed of owning his own store. So if you see someone just a little bit older than the regular staff bagging your groceries one day when you are in there, don’t even bat an eye. That is your new owner of Mitchell’s Independent store here in Carleton Place, and it’s all about customer service.
Tilting the Kilt, Vintage Whispers from Carleton Place by Linda Seccaspina is available at Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street, the Carleton Place Beckwith Museum in Carleton Place, Ontario and The Mississippi Valley Textile Mill in Almonte. available on all Amazon sites (Canada, US, Europe) and Barnes and Noble