BY CHRIS TIESSEN
‘Roger was right,’ I exclaim to TOQUE Partner Cai Sepulis as we navigate our way through Hamilton traffic toward highway 403 – which will spill us out onto the 6 back to Guelph. ‘This really is the best granola in the world.’ I push my oversized hand back down into the glass jar and struggle to grab a few of the remaining clusters that seem to be deliberately evading my fingertips. Having no luck, I acquiesce and turn the jar over into my open palm – making sure not to spill any of the remaining nuggets onto my lap or between the front seats of Cai’s Toyota.
I savour my palmful. And then deposit the few crumbs that remain into Cai’s outstretched hand before turning the clear vessel over to take a closer look at the inscription on the side of the glass: Dundurn Market. The neighbourhood grocer from which we’ve just come. And, to be sure, to which we shall return. For granola. And for so much more.
‘When my son Justin and I opened Dundurn Market back in June 2018,’ Roger Abbiss had told Cai and me earlier that morning, ‘it was as a bricks and mortar manifestation of another one of our businesses – Bikeables.’ And what’s Bikeables, then? ‘Bikeables was conceived as an online market of local, organic produce and artisanal foods delivered to your door either by bike or, if you’re further afield, electric car. It was – remains – our way of connecting local producers’ products to local consumers by the most eco-friendly means possible.’ Roger went on: ‘It didn’t take long for us to realize that we needed a physical space to house the produce and foods we sold online. And it didn’t take much longer for us to discern that, if we found the right space, we could open it up to the public as a market.’ Hence Dundurn Market. 346 Dundurn Street South. Nestled in the shadow of Hamilton Mountain.
It really is the perfect exemplar of a classic neighbourhood grocer, I’d thought as I meandered through the space. The distressed wood shelving that houses tasty, colourful things in beautiful glass jars and gorgeous packaging. Wooden crates lined with burlap, displaying fresh produce. Antique harvest tables. A central glass display case. Original wide plank floors. All so perfectly staged. Almost as if the place were created as a set for some sitcom based in Vancouver. Portland. Seattle. Brooklyn.
‘We love this location,’ Roger had remarked, as if reading my mind. ‘Which is a problem, really, since we’ve already essentially outgrown the space, and parking is a serious challenge. Yet we can’t seem to leave.’ I had no trouble comprehending his sentiments. ‘I wouldn’t leave either,’ I’d found myself responding. ‘It just looks, and feels, so perfect.’ Indeed. Not only the handsome shelves, crates, tables, but also everything they contained and displayed. Local produce – from Manorun Organic Farm in Copetown, Paradise Fields in Binbrook, Backyard Harvest in Hamilton, and more. Fresh bread from de la terre bakery in Vineland and Dear Grain in Dundas. Locally-ground coffee from Coffeecology – another of Roger’s businesses. And a wide range of incredible local, organic, socially-conscious products. Bulk by the jar. Canned and jarred. Oils, vinegars, sauces. Spreads and sweeteners. Dry goods. Preserves. Dairy products and alternatives. Meat products and alternatives. ‘We stock products from over one hundred vendors,’ Roger declared enthusiastically, ‘and pride ourselves in the fact that we don’t stock products from any large corporation.’
And then there’s Dundurn’s prepared foods made in-house. From scratch. Like that granola. ‘So much of what we sell is made by our fantastic kitchen team,’ Justin observed when I asked about Dundurn’s own prepared foods. Like mason jar salads – including the awesome kale, quinoa and sweet potato salad I grabbed on my way out. And chia parfait. Glorious vegan cheesecake. And delicious sandwiches, too. ‘One veggie, one vegan and a couple different chicken sandwiches each day.’ Indeed, Dundurn even makes its own kombucha. ‘And we teach others how to make it too,’ Justin announced, alluding to the market’s soon-to-be-launched vegan cooking class series – which will focus on nut cheeses, nut milks, knife skills and, of course, kombucha.
Cai merges onto the 6, and I place the empty granola jar on the floormat by my feet. ‘I wish I would’ve saved some for back home,’ I lament. We’ll go back. For granola and for that charming, local-centric, eco-friendly venue devoted to providing Hamiltonians with the best local, organic produce and artisan foods.
Cai steps on the gas, and I recall what Roger said as we left for home. ‘We created Bikeables and Dundurn Market to encourage folks to keep their money in the city by supporting local producers. And the cool thing is it’s happening in Hamilton right now. We can feel the movement afoot. We’re just proud to be part of it.’
And if it means eating more granola, I’m happy to be part of it too.
346 Dundurn St S, Hamilton