This St. John’s neighbourhood is getting its very own corner store — complete with dips and snacky spreads

Allison Connors Brophy recently decided to go all in with her side hustle catering business Punchbowl and open a brick and mortar location called The Punchbowl Shop. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC)

What started as a catering business serving up snacks is now set to open as The Punchbowl Shop, a corner store in the Southside neighbourhood of St. John’s.

Allison Connors Brophy runs the catering business Punchbowl and has taken over 626 Southside Road to turn it into a quintessential corner store.

Renovations are ongoing, and she said she’s seen people peering in through the shop windows to see what’s going on inside.

“I feel like people are curious and people are also really excited. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and support. So that’s been encouraging,” Connors Brophy told CBC News.

The plan is to open in September and the store will act as both a production kitchen for her own food — like dips and other snack foods — as well as a retail location.

Sweet potato hummus with spiced ground lamb, pomegranate molasses, dukkah served with fresh flatbread.
Earlier this year Allison Connors Brophy hosted a pop up dinner at Toslow and served this sweet potato hummus with spiced ground lamb, pomegranate molasses, dukkah and fresh flatbread. (Submitted by Allison Connors Brophy)

She also plans to carry beverages, coffee, some baked goods, as well as everyday items people need from a corner store like eggs, fresh produce and other pantry staples.

“I really want this space to be a place where people in the neighborhood can come get their essentials or a place that people pop in to get ready for happy hour or a dinner party,” she said.

“I’m really excited to be here. It’s a dream come true, really.”

Connors Brophy said the store’s history also drew her to this area, pointing out it was Noseworthy’s Grocery for almost 70 years and most recently the home of The Newfoundland Sausage Company.

“I think there’s something really special about having a neighborhood spot. And so with that in mind, it’s really important to me to be able to carry items that are useful for people that live in the neighborhood but also carry items that will help it be a destination for people who live elsewhere.”

Third space

Food First NL CEO Josh Smee said having smaller stores within walking distance is a boon for a community, for a number of reasons.

He pointed to research on how lower income households don’t always have access to vehicles, which means walkability and biking distance to amenities really matters. For example, getting to a grocery store could mean spending up to $30 on a taxi ride.

A man in a suit looks at the camera
Josh Smee, executive director of Food First N.L., says corner stores play an important role across the province. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

“For people who are just getting by, having a place that you can walk to to get some of your basic food needs actually makes a huge difference,” said Smee.

Having accessible food in the neighbourhood is also important, adding that corner stores are examples of a ‘third space’ where people can gather to socialize in spaces that aren’t their homes or work.

“In particularly smaller communities, they’re often the only third place and they’re really important social infrastructure,” he said.

From snacks to storefront

Connors Brophy said she’s worked for years in the service industry, including in both serving and managing positions at restaurants.

A few years ago she found herself in a lull between jobs and decided to start a small catering business, calling it Punchbowl. People hired her to cater private events.

“The word ‘snack’ has kind of become ubiquitous with everything that I do. So I make a lot of snacks,” said Connors Brophy, a term that includes dips, marinated olives, and pickles.

“Just little bites for folks to graze on.”

A spread of a table covered in food, like dips, crackers and diced vegetables.
Allison Connors Brophy said the new storefront will give her business of making snacks a permanent home. (Submitted by Allison Connors Brophy)

The catering business was a side hustle for a few years but she said it steadily grew. Earlier this year, Connors Brophy took the leap, deciding to turn it into a full-time venture.

Previously, she was running Punchbowl out of friends’ kitchens around town. Now she’ll have her own production space, she said.

“I always knew that I would have a business and I always knew that I wanted it to be somewhere, like, off the beaten track. Something that is kind of nestled in a neighborhood,” she said.

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