At the corner of Pape Street and Canning Avenue in Toronto’s Greektown, a new store launched in spring — and it is not Greek related.
The small grocery store opened its doors three months ago in June selling only Turkish products.
Smyrna Laz Bakkal opened its doors at 808 Pape Ave., on June 3 replacing 808 Social coffee shop, which had been there for only one year. The shop is now filled with Turkish delicacy, jams, juices, coffee, baklava, oils and so much more.
The store also features what store owner Emre Ergul calls a “bonus room” with dishes, pots and other items from Turkey.
Ergul and his wife started the business after realizing there was an opportunity to grow in the Turkish food business, he said. “We realized other Turkish markets are selling products that are really expensive.”
Ergul said his prices are competitive because he sells his products for almost half the price. “For some products like the tea over there, they are selling it for $14 and we are selling it for $7.50, huge difference.” Ergul said his profit is set to 20 per cent and not the usual 70 and 80 per cent, allowing his store to be different.
Ergul said at first the idea of opening a store was a joke between him and his wife. However, it became a reality after taking over the closed coffee shop.
“We have a lot of customers — it’s more than we expected.,” he said. “We aimed to get 300 customers a month, we had like 500 every month but we are not making much (every day) because things are cheap.”
He said every neighbourhood in Turkey has a Laz Bakkal and it’s a mini grocery store where people hang out.
The store has gotten rave reviews from customers on Facebook.
On the window of the store facing Pape Street, pastries can be seen on display. Ergul said his best seller is the “4 Simit,” a pretzel shaped bun smothered in sesame seeds. He said people enjoy it so much that he tries his best not to run out. “Mostly customers are buying simit and a month we sell 2500.
The Erguls also own a digital company called Starfall Web Designs. They started the website in 2011 before moving to Canada in 2014. They both enrolled at the University of Toronto studying computer design.
Ergul said he plans to move the store to a bigger location in the future because he would like to expand the amount of products he currently carries. He also said he wants to keep up with the things that are in high demand so he can keep up with his customer’s needs.