Going Wild for Local Food in Collingwood, Ontario

by editor

by Georgia Murphy

It’s a hot summer day as I walk through the doors of The Wild Stand General Store. Immediately, I am drawn in by the rich smell of freshly brewed coffee and the sweetness of homemade rhubarb lemon muffins. My eyes wander across the vibrant colours of fresh produce and travel up and down the fully stocked shelves of extraordinary local food products.

Sharing the shelves with edible items such as Collingwood Honey Farms, Four Wheel Farms, and Kolapore Gardens organic produce is handmade clothing and gift items like cards by Loo Mcnulty Designs and clothing created by Sandy Stevenson. I make my way to the front of the store where I meet with Sarah Fortier – a former lawyer, mother of three, and owner of The Wild Stand.

We sit down to chat while listening to the buzz of locals around us, some snacking on handmade veggie paté wraps, some shopping, while others enjoy the summer sun on the outside patio as they sip on juice spritzers. The Wild Stand General Store is Collingwood’s newest neighbourhood hub for those looking to ease their day’s stress by grabbing lunch while shopping for the week’s groceries in an easy-to-navigate store. There’s everything you need here, from baking supplies to pre-made meals. Fortier has given the town access to a store that provides essentials while removing the anxiety and time waste of too much choice.

Prior to living in Collingwood, Fortier and her family lived in a Montreal neighbourhood which promoted a simple living lifestyle. Returning to Ontario, she explains that, “Moving back, I saw how much choice there was in grocery stores, and it was becoming confusing. That’s when the idea for The Wild Stand General Store developed. The goal of my store and the inspiration behind it is to simplify life.” The inspiration also developed from her favourite store in Montreal, Ecology, “an organic grocery store that is very small but you still can get everything you need there.”

So when Fortier moved back to Ontario to be closer to family, a little piece of Ecology came with her and has since taken shape in a Collingwood business devoted to supporting neighbourhood-scale commerce and healthy food options in a quaint Quonset hut. For Fortier, the move towards a more organic and local living style was largely driven by concern for the health of her children. She believes the food they are eating should be of the best quality they can find – and what better place to do so than the fertile micro-climate of southern Georgian Bay?

Fortier’s store also prides itself on being accessible. “Physically, it is easy to get to, intellectually, there is less choice to be overwhelmed by and, financially, it is affordable.” Freshly brewed coffee is a prominent feature, roasted by Fortier’s brother through his company EH! Roastery, which is built on his Brazilian-born partners’ direct family relationship with a Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee plantation in Brazil.

“When people come into my store looking for lunch or a snack they can certainly expect a punch of flavour and a good chunk of protein.” Fortier’s veggie paté wraps are unlike anything you can find in surrounding shops and the coconut bacon is out of this world! And, although many of The Wild Stand General Store’s menu items are vegan and vegetarian-friendly, Fortier does not want to limit herself to these dietary restrictions. “I’m still toying with recipes to this day and looking to introduce interesting new tastes and textures to our lunch counter options.”

From the hills to the bay, Southern Georgian Bay prides itself on both creating and consuming locally sourced products. Luckily, for the town of Collingwood and surrounding areas, the public is able to get these local products easily thanks to the hard work of individuals like Fortier, who is making buying local and eating local, easier, tastier and more enjoyable than ever before.

Photo credits: Julie Card

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