Danny, who owns the specialty grocery store on Balsam Street together with his wife Charmaine, says “local is not new for us.”
“Back in the day, my dad sold local Christmas trees. My dad always focused on local,” he explains.
When his parents George and Dolores Thompson started the business as Midway Grocery in 1961, there weren’t very many local food options. A lot has changed in the past 20 years, and the Thunder Bay Area has seen an exponential growth of local food entrepreneurs. “If we don’t know about you [a local food producer,] we want to know about you,” Danny says firmly.
Danny and Charmaine have been working at the store for about four decades, and now, their youngest daughter Graysen also works at the family business. What started as a “little general store” in the location now occupied by Gallery 33 and the Painted Turtle has grown into a thriving local business. “The reason we’ve grown is because the local market’s grown,” Danny says.
Many fledgling businesses approaching George’s Market and Celebrations with a new product have felt welcomed and supported, and they say that George’s has helped them grow. The store doesn’t just give new products some shelf space; it uses them in its prepared food section.
“We focus on prepared foods made from local ingredients. We make sandwiches, we make salads, and those salads are made with local lettuce when in season,” Danny says.
The store makes and sells beef jerky using June & Jo Spice Co’s Texas original spice blend, and marinaded chicken using Galo piri piri sauce from Churrasqueira Galo. There is also back bacon marinated and rubbed in Rose N Crantz coffee, and a variety of other unique items, depending on what’s in season, or what’s fresh and plentiful.
Danny says they have about 75 local suppliers, and that number keeps growing. “Charmaine and I can see the intense movement of local entrepreneurs,” he says. “If it’s fresh, if it’s local, it’s in our store.”
Their focus on local makes the business more resilient in uncertain times. In the beginning of the pandemic, Danny says, there was some talk of shortages, but in the end, George’s was not affected very much.
“We’ve had longstanding relationships with our suppliers. We deal with local suppliers, they’re family friends of ours. And most of the out-of-town suppliers we deal with, Charmaine and I like to work with independents. So we work with suppliers that are family owned, like us. So I know them all; their kids, their names. And they know us. When you’re dealing with family businesses, the supply chain doesn’t drop for you. They work hard to work for you,” he says.