Quick – what’s the first place you think of to buy natural and organic meat, cheese, coffees and teas, specialty condiments and other culinary goodies? If the folks at Arva Flour Mill have their way, The MillHouse will soon come first to mind, and health-conscious food shoppers will beat a path to the new Mill District being created at the north edge of London.
The Mill Store has long been a bakers’ paradise, with its offerings of locally grown flours and milled flours, grains and other related ingredients. The recently opened MillHouse will hold the same appeal to people looking for natural, organic, and predominantly locally sourced foods for cooking and barbecuing, all in one place.
The MillHouse, located in the recently renovated livery stable, is the first building to be converted to retail use, in phase one of the new Mill District plan. The shop carries a good selection of natural meats and fish: a range of certified organic meat from Field Gate Organics; water buffalo sausage, burgers, roasts and steaks from Tenderbuff near Stratford; fish from Hooked Inc. in Toronto, which are caught fresh, cleaned, portioned and blast frozen immediately. Hooked Inc. skips the distributor, purchasing fish directly and carrying only those from clean waters and healthy stocks.
The MillHouse is owned by Bill and Brenda Fellner. Brenda manages the store on a daily basis, but during start up you would have more likely found Christie Massé behind the counter. Massé, a graduate of the Stratford Chefs School, is a local chef and former owner of Crust Catering & Bakery who teaches in the culinary arts program at Fanshawe College. She worked with the Fellners to bring in a number of regional labels that local foodies will be familiar with: Field Gate Organics The Garlic Box, Nature’s Wonder Wheatgrass Juice, Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, Rootham Gourmet Preserves, In A Jam and Heritage Line Herbs, to name a few. For goods that could not be sourced locally, Massé sought out Canadian suppliers, going as far afield as British Columbia for flavoured sea salts from Vancouver Island Salt Company.
“We carry some products that you’ll find at the Covent Garden and Western Fair Farmers’ Markets, or specialty shops like Jill’s Table” said Massé, pointing out the Savvy Chef mustard, Fire Roasted and Hasbeans coffees, Kosuma energy bars and Pristine Olive oils. “For some people it will be more convenient to come here, and we’re open seven days a week.” During July and August the store will be closed on Mondays, returning to regular hours in the fall.
The MillHouse also carries handmade soaps and lotions, natural bug sprays, and similar goods by local artisans, including handcrafted items made from recycled materials by a mother-daughter team from Kintore.
In all, the MillHouse deals directly with 24 different suppliers, an important distinction for shoppers who look closely at ingredients and want to know where their food comes from.
The MillHouse opened in February, and Fellner is pleased with the response to date. He has been working with Mike Matthews who, with his siblings Steve and Julaine, owns the flour mill and the six acres of land that it sits on. Their goal is to transform the property to a foodie destination, and The MillHouse is first step in that plan. Next Matthews and Fellner plan to convert the original homestead, which sits just over the footbridge by the mill stream, to a gastropub with a patio where diners can enjoy the scenic setting.
The homestead building is large enough to also house a bakery, and possibly a butcher, cheese shop or other complimentary food business. All will be independently owned and operated, and Fellner says there is already a lot of interest, particularly in the restaurant.
NATALIE NOVAK is freelance writer based in London.
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