Two local entrepreneurs have teamed up to create a pop-up shop they say will bring more local food and food experiences to downtown St. Albert.
Ken Bautista and Peter Keith of The Public Food Hub Co. announced Sept. 1 that they would open a new pop-up retail outpost at the BreadLove bakehouse in St. Albert Sept. 28. The outpost, which will operate for three weeks, will offer a variety of Edmonton-region food products and food experiences created by area chefs.
Bautista, who lives in St. Albert, said he got the idea for The Public through his work running Startup Edmonton.
“We saw a lot of demand for Startup Edmonton but for food entrepreneurs,” he said — innovators who had great ideas for food products but lacked the expertise or facilities to get them to market.
The pandemic, meanwhile, has changed how people want to experience food, said Keith, a Paul Kane alumnus and co-founder of Meuwly’s charcuterie shop in Edmonton. People like to order food online, but market research suggests they still want that in-person connection with the people who make that food.
Keith and Bautista described The Public as a cross between a business incubator, farmers' market, and those free-sample stations found in grocery stories.
“It’s about deepening and creating a more meaningful connection between food lovers and food makers,” Bautista said.
At its core is a business incubator for food entrepreneurs. Now under construction near MacEwan University, Bautista said this hub building would feature a commercial kitchen, storefront, and restaurant where new chefs could test ideas and showcase products. Linked to this core would be a series of outpost stores in locations such as Calgary and Winnipeg where chefs could run events, sell products, connect directly with customers, and network with other entrepreneurs.
Keith said the outposts are a new twist on a traditional store that combines the crowd-drawing food experience of a restaurant with the steady income produced by ready-made products.
“It’s going to create a new way to enjoy and interact with some of these food experiences people have been wanting in their community,” Keith said.
Bautista said this St. Albert pop-up is the company’s way of testing the waters in the Edmonton region and could become permanent if it proves popular.
Keith said St. Albert is a good place to start as it has a thriving farmers’ market and a reputation for producing skilled chefs.
“People love good food in St. Albert,” he said, and this outpost would make it more accessible.
Bread, dumplings, and more
BreadLove owner Laura Taschuk-Rogerson said she was enthusiastic about hosting the St. Albert pop-up when Keith raised the idea with her.
“It’s a way for people to see what’s really [available] in our backyard,” she said, and for entrepreneurs to get together and share their experiences.
“This pool of knowledge is invaluable for a food business,” she said, and would definitely have helped her if it had been around when her company started 11 years ago.
Keith said the St. Albert pop-up will offer a variety of local food products and food experiences, including bread, charcuterie, and dumpling-making classes; coffee and cheese tastings; chef’s table dinners; meetup sessions for area chefs; and a downtown food crawl.
Taschuk-Rogerson said she hopes this pop-up will draw more attention to downtown businesses.
“Let’s get people to come downtown and look at the wonderful city we have.”
The pop-up store will be open Tuesdays to Saturdays at BreadLove (46C St. Michael Street) from Sept. 28 to Oct. 15. Visit publicfoodhub.com/stalbertpopup for a list of activities.