Corner store reinvented

Aubergine offers one-stop shop

Fernwood's Aubergine Specialty Foods offers a wide selection of local meats and veggies as well as imported treats from South Africa.

Fernwood's Aubergine Specialty Foods offers a wide selection of local meats and veggies as well as imported treats from South Africa.

Walk under Aubergine’s black-and-white striped awning on Gladstone, Street and you’ll find local, pesticide-free and conventional produce, local meats and specialty foods — South African, gluten-free and Kosher to name a few.

On most days, you’ll also find owner Leon Zetler behind the till.

This tall, tanned South African came to Canada in 2000 and brought his passion for produce with him.

“I’ve always been in the food business,” says Zetler.

Not surprising, considering his parents’ background as farmers and their continuing strawberry and pepper farm in South Africa.

His first foray into the Canadian food market was as an organic produce specialist for a company in Vancouver. Then he took on the role of produce broker for seven companies on the Island.

“It’s not only doing sales,” says Zetler, “but ordering products from around the world, invoices … it was just too stressful.”

So, Zetler left the brokering business and opened Aubergine Specialty Foods’ first incarnation in Oak Bay in 2005.

Business was great, but Zetler soon found that he was working six or more days a week.

“Retail is a tough job,” says Zetler. “You’re a slave to your business.”

So he took a break to spend more time with his family. But it wasn’t long before he had the itch to get back into the game. In September 2010, he opened Aubergine Specialty Foods’ doors again, this time in the heart of Fernwood.

For Zetler, Aubergine is the corner store reinvented. In his 600-square-foot store, it’s all about affordable, high-quality options.

“Customers want value for their money,” says Zetler. That’s why he goes to such great lengths to ensure quality.

In the spring, Zetler visits the farms that supply his produce. When summer is in full swing, he’s at the farms daily to select the produce he wants on his shelves.

When he’s not out at farms, he’s placing grocery orders for products from around the world, roasting coffee, and even mopping the floor. He does it all. M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blue Bridge Theatre
Stratford star teams up with Blue Bridge Theatre

A New Take on a Perennial Favourite

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Dennis and Jenny Shorty, from Ross River, Yukon perform with others as Dena Zagi – combining traditional Dena First Nations themes and lyrics with contemporary musical styles. (Courtesy West Coast Reach Association)
National names mingle with Greater Victoria talent for diverse, free concert

Virtual event commemorates Human Solidarity Day, International Day of Persons With Disabilities

The Chemainus Theatre Festival’s Playbill Dining Room reopened to host small musical performances. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Chemainus Theatre receives Island Coastal Economic Trust funding

Project will involve recording and live-streaming Playbill Presents series content

Nanaimo ballerina Jillian Vanstone is giving a hometown performance at the Port Theatre on Dec. 12. (Photo courtesy Karolina Kuras)
National Ballet of Canada principal dancer’s hometown return postponed

Nanaimo’s Jillian Vanstone will celebrate favourite choreographer at the Port Theatre at a later date

Stephen Laidlaw, prepator with Nanaimo Art Gallery, hangs a photograph of Anna Wong, a B.C. print maker whose works are on display at the gallery. The exhibit opens Friday, Dec. 4, and runs until Feb. 7. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores life work of overlooked B.C. printmaker

‘Anna Wong: Traveller on Two Roads’ features more than 70 art works and personal belongings

Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus released their first joint album, <em>The Invasion</em>. (Photo courtesy Raymond Knight)
Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus release first joint album

Duo plan elaborate live-streamed CD release for ‘The Invasion’

Next month Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases his solo debut album, ‘Wildlife.’ (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases solo debut album

New record ‘Wildlife’ about taking chances and going through changes

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

Most Read