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New grocery sheriff takes over Westside Foods (con't)

There are now outside tables displaying plants and some produce like watermelons.

“They never did that before,” Hazelton, a Toronto native, said of the former owners, who sold the store and moved to the United States.

The tables, plus ongoing interior upgrades and more to come inside and out, are all part of how Hazelton wants to transform the grocery from a tired mediocre store to a full grocery that meets the community’s needs.

“I knew it was a little underachieved and not managed the best and people didn’t really like it,” she said, noting she and her dad visited Windsor several times before buying the store and simply scoped out who was shopping there and pretended to be customers themselves.

She said people would use the grocery “like a convenience store” by buying the odd product. 

But many, “felt afraid to go in because "the shelves weren’t stocked, they weren’t carrying good product selection.....the service wasn’t very good,” she said.

Hazelton has only been in the grocery business five years.

She started at Pusateri’s Fine Foods in Toronto, moving up to the head of the pastry department at its flagship store.

“They kept telling me all the skills that I had, things that they thought I was great at – customer service, working with people,” she said. 

“And I thought, you know what, I’ve got to do this, I’m going to find something for myself that I want to do.”

She bought the 6800 sq. ft. Westside for $500,000; had she bought in Toronto the same type of store would have cost more than $3 million.

But “it wasn’t the price necessarily,” she said.

Rather, she was finding Toronto too congested – “the transit’s always down” – there was an over-retailed food sector, and most of all, the decreasing lack of community.

“I don’t know what it was about Windsor but I drove down here,” she said. 

“I liked that I could get across the city in 25 mins, I liked the people in that when I talked to them they talked back to me.”

Meanwhile the store was so lacking as a bonafide grocery the aisles had only three shelves – she’s increased them to six and they’re brimming full.

Then she added displays at the ends, known in the biz as “end caps.”

And she’s added considerable new inventory including ethnic foods, and such basics as olive oils, Greek yogurts.

She will be adding a baby line.

“Because there’s been customers coming in, they’re having children and they’re saying there’s nothing here for the baby.”

She will also be replacing the 40-year-old dairy and produce coolers.

And she plans to redesign the outside of the store including possibly a new name, logo and colours, changing the tired old green awning.

“I’m working with somebody right now to come up with some drawings,” she said. 

“I think we’re going to change the name, we have some ideas, I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag yet.”

Hazelton is a great community booster and has started to make local donations and sponsor sports.

“That way we’re sponsoring it for the people actually shopping here but as well just to encourage the area itself.”

And she’s bought a house, 10 blocks away.

“Because like I said I really believe in being involved in the community where your business is at, where you live

“Then you understand what everybody’s needs are.”


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