by Aruna Antonella Handa | February 20, 2013 | Alimentary Initiatives
I absolutely love the Depanneur. I think Len Senater is a local food hero. He has truly revolutionized the notion of a corner store by returning the concept to what it once was.
When Len and I lived in Montreal (we didn’t know one another well, but our circles happily overlapped), the “depanneur” or the “dep” was the corner store where you went to get locally bottled cheap imported wine, cigarettes, a box of (usually) stale crackers and not much else. When Len took over the lease at his joint on Havelock and College, the place was a veritable dump. I could not believe it. But Len’s face was all shiny and new and full of optimism. I, on the other hand, could barely breathe in there. Len and his pal renovated the place physically, but while he was chipping away at the paint on the walls, Len was also chipping away at the traditional notions of a corner store. Instead of poisons like industrial candy and tobacco, Len was going to sell sour dough breads and organic vegetables. Instead of trashy magazines and porn, Len was offering serious food journals. And instead of a sorry patty reheated to within an inch of its life, Len served frittatas and wicked grilled cheese. In short he renovated the corner store, in form and in content. The Dep also features cookery classes and makes for an amazing venue for a private party.
Len is currently looking for someone to manage the corner store part of his operation as he has his hands full with running the Dep’s two kitchens, his remarkably successful and rather uniquely public supper club, the Rusholme Park, as well as his runaway success Drop-in Dinners. So, when Len asks for help? We all chip in. Alimentary’s Toronto Office Markets wouldn’t have been half as successful were it not for the brilliant support Len has quietly offered food start-ups with his kitchens by renting them commercial kitchen space. I call this small businesses weaving into one another to build resilience, to make it harder for strong winds to blow us away…