Saks Food Hall by Pusateri’s at Toronto’s Sherway Gardens mall opened its doors earlier this week.
The 18,500-sq.-ft. location features an assortment of luxury products and services. We chatted with John Mastroianni, VP merchandising, about Pusateri’s growth plans, sourcing strategies and asked what is a food hall, anyhow?
With the opening of Saks Hall by Pusateri’s at Sherway Gardens and on Queen Street, and a new Oakville location set to open this spring, Pusateri’s has doubled its store count. Why expand now?
There’s a great energy in Toronto right now, and it’s something we wanted to be a part of. Pusateri’s founder envisioned having the best food shop in the city, and our stores are a continuation of that legacy. It was important for us to continue to build because we felt like we’ve done an incredible job giving people the experiences they expect of us, and that’s what we want to continue doing for the next generation. Times have changed, and people’s eating habits have changed. We’re trying to grow with our customers and encompass these changes.
Will elements of the Sherway Gardens food hall also be incorporated into the Queen Street location?
There will be, but there will be even more added components at the Queen Street store. But those will be a surprise for everyone to see when they visit.
And the Queen Street location will be quite a bit larger?
It’s almost 50% larger than this one, so that’s going to give us the opportunity to incorporate more. Keep in mind that the Queen Street location will be connected to Toronto’s underground PATH and 50,000 people are walking through that space on a daily basis. You can just imagine the visibility it’s going to have. I think it’s going to be a home run.
You’ve pointed out some notable local products at this location. Bridgenorth Bees honey, for example, is sold exclusively at Pusateri’s. How do you source your local suppliers?
Social media has given us an opportunity to see what people are talking about, and bring those things into our shops. [Supporting local] is one of the key things you need to sustain a wonderful and vibrant city.
We’re huge supporters of local, and that’s been the case for many years. There’s some great talent in this city, and it’s just incredible how much is coming out. So for us, talking to people, talking to our consumers, is the most important resource.
At our opening yesterday, I encountered some people who were here from Russia and London. They said this location rivals any great food hall in London and Paris. It’s flattering and humbling to hear, but at the same time, we wanted to create a destination for local shoppers and try to capture that market right across the city
How do these partnerships with suppliers expand into large-scale services, like your prosciutto bar is done in partnership Niagara, Falls, Ont.-based Pingue Prosciutto, or you juice bar with Toronto-based Greenhouse Juice?
It involves a lot of talking. When our initial conversations start with partners like that, the important thing is for them to get to know who we are, for us to understand who they are. Is the partnership all about short term gain, or is it a longer vision? We want to make sure our goals and principles are aligned. Then, it’s important to know about the ingredients they’re using. Are they sustainable? How are they sourced? There are lots of elements that are important for our shoppers today.
All the stars need to align.