Hastings Trailblazer | Alice’s Pantry

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Owning a small business combines two of Alice Martin’s favourite things: cooking delicious food and serving the people in her community.  

For the past seven years, it’s become part of her daily routine. Martin owns Alice’s Pantry – a business specializing in preparing home-cooked meals and selling bulk food necessities – in the heart of downtown Bancroft.  

“I love it. Honestly, it was always my dream to own retail,” she said, “And here I get to create the culture and environment of the business.” 

Alice's Pantry
Each day Alice prepares a fresh lunch that’s popular around Bancroft. On this particular day, she whipped up her Indian special, chicken curry with rice and a side.  

Martin began her life in Bancroft about 20 years ago when she relocated from the Kitchener area to work in the community. She brought with her a background in Indian cuisine, after having spent more than a year living in India on a mission trip and learning about the food and culture.  

Her journey into entrepreneurship started small with a few catering jobs where she served her Indian food. It quickly grew into requests for larger events like weddings.  

Alice’s Pantry serves more than 500 bulk food products and specialty items such as coffee and an assortment of ethnic foods, especially those found in India.
Alice’s Pantry serves more than 500 bulk food products and speciality items such as coffee and an assortment of ethnic foods, especially those found in India.  

“I liked catering but what I missed was the retail,” she said. “I missed the connection with people one-on-one. Often what I would feel is I wanted to do catering for more people but on a smaller scale.” 

When an opportunity arose to work at a small bulk food location in Bancroft, Martin jumped at the chance. Just a few short years later, she bought the business.  

“I took a big leap,” she recalled. Although it was a move that took a lot of faith, the business continues to grow seven years later, and is “the perfect fit” for Martin. Just over two years ago, she expanded into a larger retail location.  

Today, Alice’s Pantry serves hot lunches for hungry customers, prepares frozen takeout meals that are popular with the local community and cottagers, and stocks more than 500 bulk food items. Martin has five employees to help her with the high customer demand.  

Alice’s Pantry is an experience of smells and tastes. Martin sells a variety of spices and baking needs, coffees, nuts, candy, soup mixes and more. That, paired with the aroma of lunch cooking in the kitchen, makes the shop a delight for the senses.  

“People often come in happy and leave happier,” Martin joked, adding that she loves chatting with people who walk through the doors looking to cook and bake their own creations from scratch.  

Although this year has been a bit different, Martin says her customer base has remained strong. “People have been really amazing,” she said.  

With the onset of COVID-19, Martin took the opportunity to take her business online with the launch of her website.  

“We stayed open the entire way through (the pandemic). There were so many changes in a short time, and as businesses we were all in the same boat,” she said. “I had to take some time to strategize.” 

With the help of a grant, Martin launched her online shopping platform, allowing customers to pre-order from a huge selection of bulk food, pay online, and pick-up at the curb.  

“I wanted people to feel safe, and also comfortable shopping,” she said. “This is very new for all of us, but it’s one of the ways you could say we are trailblazing. It’s felt like we’re starting a whole new business.” 

The online component has been operating since June and has proven a popular way of shopping with an element of safety for customers. For Martin, the idea of closing during the height of the pandemic was never a viable option. She cared for her customers and wanted to continue serving.  

As the months wind into fall, Martin is focusing on growing her online shop and working in a community she loves. 

“When you have a small business it feels like you have a community to take care of,” she said.  




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