Back when he was a wee lad, Jim Garraway used to top up on sweets at Parkside Variety near Queen’s Park in downtown Barrie.
Now, a career later, he’s sending people out the same shop doors with his own sweets, such as coconut cream pie and raspberry cheesecake.
“I grew up in this neighbourhood across the street,” Garraway tells BarrieToday while standing in front of what's now called Parkside’s Corner Market, which he’s had for about seven years.
He points to a classic two-storey brick architectural example of the Queen’s Park neighbourhood, where he attended nearby Hillcrest Public School and Barrie Central Collegiate.
"My parents still own that same house 45 years later. They’ve lived in the area since the time I was born until now,” he says.
So setting up shop in a familiar area after a successful career as a chef — Garraway Bistro here in Barrie and some other more exotic locales — seemed like a good idea.
“I grew up coming here,” Garraway says of the original shop located in the century-plus old building. “This was the corner store everybody came to get chips, chocolate bars and pop and all that stuff.”
And while there are certainly still some variety-store type items available — including the candy, lottery tickets, toothpaste, etc. — one item you won’t find in his shop is cigarettes and all the other smoking paraphernalia favoured by some customers.
“I don’t have any of that stuff here,” Garraway says matter-of-factly. “If they want any of that stuff, they can walk downtown to get it.”
What he does have is fresh food for a wide variety of customers.
“I’m a destination for a lot of people who used to come to my restaurant and other places I’ve worked,” he says. “But what we’re doing here now is obviously much different than a fine-dining restaurant, which is what my history has been.
“But I have a lot of the neighbourhood people who rely on me on a daily basis to feed them,” Garraway adds. “So it’s not the glamorous fine-dining restaurant, but I don’t think — especially with the pandemic — we’re in that fine-dining type of scenario right now."
But he still has a steady clientele.
“The world has changed so much now and people like what we’re doing here. They like to have a good, home-cooked meal that they can take home and rewarm it," he says.
While acknowledging there are some challenges having his shop relatively close to the city centre, overall the area seems to be on an upswing, he adds, especially with residents breathing new life into older homes.
“In this neighbourhood now, a lot of people are starting to re-purpose them," Garraway says of the historic homes. "There used to be a lot of rentals here and now they’re being repurchased and cleaned up. All you have to do is walk down the street to realize that people are starting to put some money into their homes.
“The neighbourhood, I think, has improved. There are definitely families moving back into the area.”