Local M&M’s gets facelift for new generation

Ken Kellar

It’s been a few years since the name change, and now a local business has gotten a facelift to match.

The local M&M Food Market, known as M&M Meat Shops until a chain-wide rebranding in 2016, was recently closed down for a much needed renovation.

“It was time, we were ready for a refresh,” said store owner Chris McKinnon.

“The store has been in Fort Frances over 20 years and it was time. Time to get with the new generation.”

McKinnon and store manager Gary Edwards invited the Times into the closed down store last Thursday to see the nearly completed renovations before they opened back up for business on Friday after more than a week of work.

“The renovation started last Monday, so this will be 10 days to open,” McKinnon explained.

“We felt it was a little longer than that too. We’ve been working hard. To get it to this point has been a lot of work.”

One of the first things you’ll notice upon entering the refreshed store is that the counter that used to dominate the west side of the store is gone, something that both McKinnon and Edwards said is in line with the new philosophy for the business.

“One of the things this reno that we’re trying to do is make people accessible to our food,” McKinnon said.

“And our hope is that people are going to be exposed to a lot of products that they never knew we had. This [bottom] part of the freezer, no one saw it. You didn’t know it was there unless you looked up [at the old menu boards]. So now you’re going to be able to come in and see everything.”

“You used to stand back here and so you were looking at the shelf from six feet away,” Edwards agreed.

“There weren’t even price tags to show you what it was. This simplifies it a lot, and the new design, they really try to have… either the product visible in some of the new style packaging, or a picture visible on almost every product, so that it’s much easier to see what you’re looking for and discover new products, and it’s easier to find your old favourites too.”

The layout of the store, then, is much more conducive to the way modern shoppers approach their food. Instead of asking an attendant to grab items from the cooler, the customer can grab and replace what they like at their leisure.

“Realistically the new generation wants to see this,” McKinnon said.

“They want to see access to their food, they want to be able to come over here and say ‘Oh, sirloin meatballs, are these a gluten-free option?’ And it’s right on the box. That’s one thing that the new consumer wants to see.”

The hopes are also that it reinforces that the days of M&M Meat Shops are long gone, and that the new(er) M&M Food Market can cover more bases than people think when it comes to food options.

“It’s not just a new look, it’s not the same old M&M,” McKinnon said.

“We want people to see that there’s vegetables, there’s seafood, that there’s butcher, that there’s soups… I have a lot of people say ‘You guys have poutine?’ Yeah, we have poutine. And our hope is that people are going to be exposed to a lot of products that they never knew we had.”

The removal of the long counter also addresses another issue that regular customers are probably familiar with in one way or another.

“You get a lineup of three people, and as Canadians we’re very polite people,” McKinnon said.

“They’ll say, ‘there’s that one thing but I can’t remember what it was,’ but someone’s behind them. ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll get it next time.’ And that, to us, doesn’t give you the opportunity to really experience our product. What we envision is when people come in, they go around and they take their time, they go around the store and they really look and see what we have to offer.”

The new layout of the store also emphasizes what McKinnon said is another of the company’s core values, their “Absolutely No” policy, which means none of their foods contain artificial colours, sweeteners or flavours.

“No one else can make that claim,” he said.

“I’m sure no one will make that claim for years. We’re miles ahead of what the consumer wants to see. We’re happy to be there, we’re looking forward to seeing some new customers in here.”

“We’ve got a very highly skilled staff here that are trained to explain what these products are all about, how to cook them, how to put a meal together for you, they’ve got that knowledge, and that’s what we pride ourselves on – on service,” he added.

McKinnon encouraged the public to come and check out the new renovations and see what the store might have for them

“If you have been in an M&M, come and see us again because there’s a lot you haven’t seen, and if you haven’t been in an M&M, come and see what we have to offer, because it’s going to blow your mind,” he said.

“There’s so much here that people don’t realize and we want to educate them on what we have and make them our customers, make them our friends.”