Roadside food market attracts big crowd in Iqaluit
“Never did I expect such a huge turnout”
Kate Zhang, an Ottawa-based entrepreneur, held her first Frobisher Market sale in front of Iqaluit Square Aug. 21, when between 60 and 80 customers filled their bags up with food.
Zhang brought up 28 boxes of non-organic produce, meat, bread, oatmeal, flour and sugar to sell at Iqaluit’s Aug. 20 Country Food Market, but the arrival of her Nutrition North-subsidized freight delivery was delayed by a day.
Still, she said she “was completely overwhelmed by the crowd, never did I expect such a huge turnout.”
Everything sold except a few green peppers, some oranges, and a bit of flour and sugar.
“I feel so honoured [by] people lining up and waiting for so long to buy produce,” Zhang said.
Zhang no longer provides the online ordering service offered by her previous business, Ecoproduce.ca: having goods for sale in Iqaluit is better for the consumer, she said.
Then, people can take exactly what they like. And not everyone has online access or credit cards to order food on the internet, she added.
“This just makes it easier for everyone, including the people that are on income support,” Zhang said.
Her idea: to offer Iqaluit more access to lower-priced foods — with lower prices than at North Mart and Arctic Ventures, Zhang said.
Though Zhang’s project should be profitable, “the food is the number one priority,” she said.
Zhang hopes to establish a year-round place in Iqaluit where people can buy food, as well as collaborate with hunters, craftspeople and artists.
If the model works successfully she’ll bring it to other communities.
“I’ve been building a lot more partnerships every since coming here,” Zhang said, citing support from First Air and the Country Food Market.
Zhang is also looking at using the Anglican Parish Hall as a place to sell food during the winter on a weekly basis.
This week’s visit marked Zhang’s first time in Iqaluit.
“So far it’s been really friendly. I find it a lot easier to meet people here than in Ottawa,” said Zhang, who plans on coming back occasionally.
Meanwhile, she’s hired an Iqaluit resident to manage the business — Susie Nakashuk, who says working for the Frobisher Market will help her develop skills.
“I feel that in the long run it would be beneficial to an office job or any other job that I wanted to get into. I feel that it will give me a lot more skills that I don’t have and knowledge,” said Nakashuk.
The project aims to keep food on an even par with southern prices, which should be possible because it won’t need to keep a daily store operating, Zhang said.
“[But] this is more than just a table on the roadside.”
And Zhang vows that if she can expand the project to the other communities “the pricing will be a lot lower than their local stores, for sure.”
The next Frobisher Market will take place in September.