Stars of Vancouver Grocery Store winner: Stong's Market

Q&A with Cori Bonina, president of Stong’s Market

You can literally buy food anywhere — from the nearby dollar store, gas stations, farmers markets and, of course, grocery stores.

But when you find a store that not only sells high quality goods, but is also invested in its community, it encourages loyalty in shoppers, which brings us to Stong’s Markets. Stong’s took first place in the Stars of Vancouver’s grocery store category for good reason.

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Stars had some questions for Cori Bonina about the success of her family’s chain of stores.

When did the first Stong’s Market open?
My great grandfather Carson Stong opened the first Stong’s Market in the early 1890’s in Toronto with his brother Joe. With the onset of the Depression in 1931, Carson moved to Vancouver and set up two of the first open-air markets in the downtown core and, in 1955, his son Ralph, my grandfather opened the Dunbar location.

The chain has expanded since then. Can you tell us about your newest locations and when they opened?
We returned to the North Shore in May 2016. The store is located at 2150 Dollarton Highway. As of December 2016, we reopened our Dunbar location at 27th and Dunbar. Both now offer relaxing cafes, great new freshly prepared food programs and an overall expansion in all departments.

Do you purchase local produce and fruit?
Yes, local products have always been an important part of our core offering and we’re working on expanding our local produce even more this year. We’ve been reaching out to a lot of local farmers, so you’ll start seeing a lot more in both locations.

Why is that important?
We believe that supporting the local community is a big part of our success and that goes all the way back to the beginning.

How do Stong’s markets become such a part of each community they’re in?
Stong’s has always believed in building and maintaining relationships, whether it be with our suppliers, our staff or our customers. Our customers grew up right alongside us and it’s now spanned generations. We get mothers and fathers who bring their kids to ride Champion (our coin-operated horse) because they rode him when they were little. We have been on Dunbar since 1955 and have always been an integral part of the community. We sponsor schools, sports teams and not-for-profit organizations.

When looking to open the second location, it was important to choose a community we already had a close connection with. We used to have three stores on the North Shore and we have always wanted to come back. I’ve personally lived on the North Shore for the past 23 years and my two kids, Karen and Carson, both grew up here. Carson, named for our founder, continues the family tradition as the fifth generation of Stong’s and is currently the store manager at our Northwood location.

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