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Towns & Leahy Mercantile and Deli: A Community Hub Returns to Douro

Illustration by Peterborough Artist George Elliott in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of P.G Towns & Sons General Store; and the current Towns & Leahy Mercantile and Deli (a few months before opening day).

General store featuring local/seasonal products now open for business; grand opening to take place in July.

There are a disorienting number of family members present when you visit the Towns & Leahy Mercantile and Deli in Douro — or at least there has been the two times that I popped by. There were at least (a combined) four generations present as I paid for my groceries yesterday.

I say disorienting, because, unless you know them, you’re never quite sure if you’re talking to a Towns or a Leahy. Both families are made up of kind, sturdy Irish folk — with the fair skin and dark hair so characteristic of their old world compatriots. And both are quick to join with a quip or a laugh. I still have no idea whether the the 7-month-old I giggled with was part of the Towns or Leahy side of this business relationship, though I soon found out that the tall, white-haired gentleman was a Towns patriarch.

Things only get blurrier once you factor in the Douro community members — whose sheer number of comers and goers makes you wonder if the entire township is popping by to check on developments. They all know each other — and the small-town bond makes them almost as close as kin.

Nancy Towns (great grand-daughter to Patrick George Towns, the founder of the P.G. Towns General Store), Clara Leahy (of the farming Leahy clan), and Rosemary and Mike Towns (grandson to Patrick George) work the store on opening day.

Here’s the thing, though: within a minute of walking through the door, I felt part of that close-knit, rural connection. By the time I had reached the cash register, I was on a first-name basis with almost everyone there. At Towns & Leahy, you are instantly part of the community. You instantly feel welcomed.

But back to family for a second. The new store is being opened by Nancy and Mark Towns, great grandchildren of original proprietors of the P.G. Towns General Store established on this spot in 1892, and Bernard and Lise Leahy (and family), owners of Leahy Stock Farm and 5th and 6th generation farmers in the Douro area. There is a lot of local genealogy coming together in this project.

Both families are hoping that their efforts will restore the building to its rightful place as a community hub, after the General Store closed last year.

If nothing else, the closing of that original business should act a sober reminder: if Douro wants a general store, it will need to support it faithfully. The curious (and supportive) onlookers that have been monitoring progress over the past few months have been a positive sign. So, too, was the packed opening day yesterday.

While the Mercantile and Deli is a new beginning, the store contains many links to the past. Original countertops show the dents and knife-nicks of decades of use. Original shelving graces the wall. Taking time to poke around, you’ll notice other relics: ice-boxes that once preserved foods, old wooden wall-mounted phones, curious knickknacks…

More important than the past, though, is the present and future. Towns & Leahy will not only be serving Douro-area residents, but supporting local farmers and producers as well. There are a lot of people invested in the store’s success.

Once they reach peak operation, they will be stocking regional produce, in-house roasted meats from Leahy Stock Farm, dried goods, specialty foods, local craft products, home baking, and much more. They will also operate a café on site. They will host music and storytelling events, where locals will strut their stuff.

Yesterday represented a “soft” opening, however. And not all of what they will eventually be selling has made it to shelf yet.

“Not all systems are up and ready yet,” admits Nancy Towns. “And we’ll be working hard to iron out the kinks and quirks of all our processes as we learn. However, the coffee is on, the deli is open — including our in-shop roasted meats from Leahy Stock Farms, while quantities last — and there are fresh made sandwiches. We have handmade pies and tea biscuits, again, while quantities last.”

Shoppers can also choose from a selection of local frozen meats and dairy products, produce, honey, maple syrup, and organic flour — all from Douro-Dummer. Their dry grocery selection (crackers, cookies etc) is currently in the process of being stocked, but will be arriving throughout the next couple of weeks.

Checking in yesterday, we found that the opening had been a huge success.

“We’ve been really quite busy,” said Clara Leahy, as she dashed off to slice some of her family’s roast beef for me. “It’s been a fun first day.”

Fun, but, by the look of it, hectic. Strands of dark Irish curls had escaped Clara’s ponytail, and a slightly frazzled look washed over her face when she looked up to find yet another line-up at her counter.

Thankfully, she was met with plenty of familiar faces.

“I don’t think any of us can say enough about the support of this community and the people here,” she added as she greeted shoppers.

In between sales — and trying to work the bugs out of their new Interac machine — Nancy was appreciative of the first successful day. “We want to thank people for coming out. And thank people in advance for their patience as we get our wheels turning.”

Patience, I think, will be easy to come by. This is a community store, after all. And, while it is owned by the Towns and Leahy families, it seems like all of Douro-Dummer is in it together.

Which will likely be the key to success that the Mercantile and Deli will need.

You can find Towns & Leahy Mercantile and Deli at 296 Douro County Road 8, in Douro, Ontario.

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Some of the producers Towns & Leahy will be working with:

Chocolate Rabbit (chocolates)
G. Fenton Farms (chicken)
Merrylynd Farms (organic ancient flour)
McMullen’s Honey (wild honey)
Carl McKevier Maple Syrup
Circle Organic (produce)
Scents & Suds (natural soaps)
Sannox Farms (non-certified organic lamb and rabbit)
Otonabee Apiary (buckwheat honey)
Molly’s Acres (non-certified organic hydroponic live lettuce and leafy greens)
Douro Furniture Factory (all locally sourced wood as written on the products)
Rufino Espresso Classic Gourmet Coffee (family owned and roasted in Toronto)
Sugar Daddy (local pop, using natural ingredients)
Crosswind Farm (dairy goat product)
Hawthorne Ridge Farm (rhubarb, local fresh cut flower bouquets)
Sugar Valley Farm (Maple products)
Millar Farms (eggs)
Hard Winter Bread Company
Leahy Stock Farm (farm raised beef and pork. Farm raised. Grass-fed options)
Kawartha Dairy
Empire Cheese

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Towns & Leahy Mercantile and Deli: In Their Own Words

We are a collective of hardworking, locally involved entrepreneurs preparing to open a business in the historic section of the P.G Towns building in the hamlet of Douro, Ontario, established in 1892. With over two centuries of combined family history as both merchants and farmers, the doors will open this coming spring.

Our independent, rural hub aims to collaborate with passionate local producers, artisans and business owners, balanced with the right amount of other ingredients; from some classic everyday items to specialty merchandise from places and people we are connected to both near and far.

A community-minded business, we want to provide food in the same way we like to prepare and consume it ourselves; as an enjoyable and social experience as it was in the days of old and remains today in many market settings around the world. Most of all we want to share with our customers the joy of quality goods, wholesome cooking and good eating. Our goal is to be a shopping destination and daily go-to, curated with heritage for the communities of Douro-Dummer, Peterborough County and the Kawartha Lakes.

Farm to Table Culinary Tours to go on Sale June 1st.

We’re gearing up for another year!

The Farm to Table Peterborough Downtown Culinary Tours will be operating from June until September – and trying to continue a streak of sold out events celebrating the shops and restaurants of the Downtown core.  Tickets for the events will go on sale Thursday June 1st at 9am.  All sales will be done through our online reservation system.

The weekly tours, which visit six downtown businesses each week, showcase local boutique food stores and downtown restaurants, highlighting small batch, artisan food production and local/seasonal cooking.  They run from 1pm to roughly 4pm each Wednesday, from June to September, leaving from the Peterborough Downtown Farmers’ Market. 

Each venue provides unique and delicious samples of their products – including some wine and beer samples.

The tours continue to gather momentum. And the annual buzz is back. Both patrons and businesses are eager for the season to kick off.  We’ve already had countless people call and email to try and book. It would not be a huge surprise for dates to sell out in the first hours of ticket sales.

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The Farm to Table Downtown Culinary Tours showcase local boutique food stores and downtown restaurants, highlighting small batch, artisan food production and local/seasonal cooking.  Over the past five years, the tours have introduced hundreds of new shoppers and diners to local business owners – offering a unique direct marketing opportunity for chefs and proprietors to showcase their businesses.  The tours have also become an exciting seasonal draw for locals and tourists alike to explore the downtown core “by foot and by fork.”

The tours are about shining the spotlight on local businesses and on the local farmers that supply them.  It is economic development on a small scale that is yielding large results.

Special thanks go out to all of the businesses and business owners on the tour — as well as to our tourism and economic development partners, particularly the Peterborough DBIA who have been generous in helping us promote Peterborough’s downtown core.

 

2016 Culinary Tours Tickets On Sale Monday!

tourJudging by the number of phone calls and emails we’ve received, people are really excited about the 2016 Downtown Peterborough Culinary Tours.  Well, good news, folks!  Tickets go on sale in two short days!

Eager to get a jump on things?

Why not check out the schedule to see which dates work for you?  See here for the full schedule.

We’d also like to remind you to book early.  Tours sell out quickly and the early bird catches the… local and seasonal worm?  We don’t want to see you turned away.

The Farm to Table Downtown Culinary Tours showcase local boutique food stores and downtown restaurants, highlighting small batch, artisan food production and local/seasonal cooking.

lemonade2smallTours run from 1pm to roughly 4:00pm each Wednesday, from June through September. Tickets are $35 per person.  All tours leave from the Peterborough Downtown Farmers’ Market, in the Louis St. Parking Lot (near Charlotte & Aylmer).

Special thanks to the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area for their support of the Culinary Tours.

Announcements: And a Shoutout to our Friends at the Peterborough DBIA

DBIA-logoSome news from Farm to Table as we shake off our winter hibernation and get ready for the growing (and tour) season.

First of all we’d like to offer a very special shout-out to our good friends at the Peterborough DBIA.  For the second year in a row, the DBIA has offered some very appreciated funding to cover costs for both printing and web services.  And it’s not merely funding that they offer.  The DBIA has been an integral part of helping us get the word out about the Downtown Peterborough Culinary Tours and the many great restaurants and shops that serve and sell local products and local/seasonal food.  They’re truly a great resource for the downtown core.

We’d also love to thank all of the businesses that took part in the tours last year.  It was an absolute pleasure to work with:

Peterborough Downtown Farmers’ Market – various vendors

Naked Chocolate (artisan chocolates)

Chasing the Cheese (Cheese Shop)

Brio Gusto Wine Bar and Restaurant

Rare Grill House

Black Honey Bakery

The Sapphire Room

Sam’s Place — The Best Dan Deli in Town

The Night Kitchen Pizza

The Pasta Shop

The Olde Stone Brewing Company

The Silver Bean

Community Butcher Shop

Two Dishes Cookshop

The Publican House

Electric City Bread Company

The Planet Bakery

Dr. J’s BBQ and Brews

The Ashburnham Ale House

Enticing Cakes

By The Bridge

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We’re in the process of making the schedule for this coming summer.  We plan on releasing the schedule in early May.  Look for plenty of old favourites plus a few new surprises.  A special note:  We will be contacting gift certificate holders a week before the tour schedule is released to the general public.  This will ensure that dates are available for these pre-paid spots.  If you are a gift certificate holder, look for a call from us in early May.

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Speaking of gift certificates, they are available for purchase year-round.  Looking for a special gift for a food lover?  Drop us a line!

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Finally, we’re always looking to showcase businesses that serve and sell local/seasonal food.  If you know a businesses that you think should be on the tour, please let us know.  If you are a business that thinks you should be on the tour, well, even better.  Contact us today!

Community Superhero Trading Cards to Raise Money for the Warming Room

cardFarm to Table’s Donald Fraser been turned into a trading card. And while he feels a bit silly, recognizes that it is for a good cause!

Kawartha Local has created a series of “Community Superheroes” cards that will be sold as a fundraiser for The Warming Room. The six cards feature MP Maryam Monsef, Coun. Diane Therrien, CHEX weather analyst/actor/comic/everyman Mike Judson, PtboCanada co-founder Neil Morton, writer/marketing consultant/promoter of everybody/bombshell Michelle Ferreri, and some writer/communications dude/local food promoter (Donald’s not so secret identity). It’s a limited run of 100 sets, with 600 cards signed and numbered by the artist.

The artist, by the way, is Jason Wilkins — he and card designer, Jeff Macklin, have made some lovely pieces of pop art.

Cards will be sold in packages of three for $17.70, online at kawarthalocal.ca, at NaKeD Chocolate and Black Honey.

The launch is TODAY (Saturday, February 6) at 4pm at Black Honey Dessert and Coffeehouse. It’s been confirmed that the entire “Super Six” will be popping by the launch.

We’d love it if readers popped by to support this project — and supported the cause! Or bought a couple of packs of cards at participating businesses.

Oh, and We’ll trade you four Donald Frasers for a Maryam Monsef!

See below for the rest of the series.

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