ByWard Market favourites open online grocery store

It's been a tough go for independent businesses in Ottawa constantly trying to pivot during the pandemic.

"We actually had to close because one of our employees got sick, luckily not too badly," said Isaac Farbiasz, the co-owner of the ByWard Fruit Market. 

The independent business has been in the area for 22 years and like many, transitioning to curbside pickup and delivery was a challenge.

"Pretty stressful, very difficult, pretty much under the gun all the time," he admitted.

This past year, Farbiasz teamed up with other ByWard Market staples - House of Cheese, Lapointe Fish, Mavericks Donuts, and Saslove's Meat Market - in an online venture dubbed the Best of ByWard.

"If someone ordered from me or they wanted fruit and vegetables or fish from Lapointe or cheese from House of Cheese, they would just give us the order and we would do the shopping order,” said Sasloves Meat Market owner, John Deiner who helped spearhead the project.

"It worked really, really well and helped sustain us through the rough year last year,” he said.  

 The pandemic experience a definite first for the store that’s been around since the 1950s.

"It was a whole different dynamic from working for decades standing behind the counter serving customers as they come in to doing primarily telephone and email orders," explained Diener. 

 As time passed they decided to take it to the next level by going online. The Best of ByWard has been up and running for just over a month, giving Ottawa residents access to produce, fish, cheese and meat from local favourites found in the heart of the ByWard Market.

"It was hard when they were closed," said Shannon Afonso, who was in the meat shop picking up some of her favourite items. This past year she utilized the delivery option.

"It's nice to have the option to still do curbside and to pick up from all your local places you do want to support," she said. 

"There are a lot of people who used to shop in the market for decades who now live in the suburbs and it’s great they can visit the stores in a virtual way now," added Diener. 

The Best of ByWard will be adding a sixth shop to the website soon— the French Baker. The online grocery store is hoping to reach an even wider audience.