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Refillery District brings 'shift' in shopping to downtown Orillia

New no-waste store embraces package-free shopping and focuses on locally-grown foods; 'It's a special place,' says first-time customer

Two Orillia residents are hoping to be changemakers with their new environmentally-conscious business.

Tyler Knight and Allie Fry, co-owners of Refillery District, a no-waste store that recently opened on Mississaga Street, combined their passion for community and environment to bring the idea of environmentally-sustainable shopping to Orillia.

“The whole idea is package-free shopping and sustainable packaging for anything that is packaged,” said Fry. “We make sure it's compostable and reusable. So anything that's packaged will come in paper or glass.”

It’s an easy-to-follow concept, she said.

“You can bring your own clean and dry container or purchase one of ours for reuse,” explained Fry. “You weigh your product and we subtract the weight of your container from the final weight so you can pay. And we have paper bags in case you forget to bring a bag."

Refillery District carries fresh, locally-grown and organic produce, ethical meats, bulk dry foods in addition to liquid food, such as oils and vinegars. It also carries eco-friendly bath and beauty products and cleaning supplies, as well as products from local artisans.

The store opened in understated fashion on July 12. A bigger celebration will be held at the end of summer, said Knight, who owns a photography business and art gallery and studio in town.

“We just wanted to feel out everything and then do a big celebration,” he said.

The response has blown them both away, said Knight.

“We've had people coming in for the first visit coming in with empty jars and weighing their product,” he said. “So it shows people have been wanting this and needing this.”

And if they aren’t familiar with the idea, said Knight, people are willing to learn.

Fry said she was nervous the night before they opened.

“I wasn't sure if we were ready,” she said. “But the community was waiting, so we just opened the doors. And as soon as we did that and saw the customers, the nerves were over. It was worth it.”

People have multiple reasons for visiting the store, Fry said.

“Some come in because of the environmental values and others want to shop local,” she said. “Some are just very curious about what's brand new in downtown Orillia.”

The store seems to be an attraction for those who live nearby and also for those visiting from out of town.

“It's excellent,” said Marla Perlmutar, a Toronto resident visiting Orillia. “It's easy to use and access. The things look really fresh.”

She said she liked the idea of being able to cut down on packaging used in her household. And it's important for her to shop at a place where she can use her own containers.

“It’s better for the Earth,” said Perlmutar, adding: “The price is generally comparable if not better. It's a special place and we're going to be back.”

Her daughters came with her to shop at the store.

“I think it looks really organized; it's well-labelled,” said Sydney Perlmutar, 19, who bought gluten-free granola, owing to her allergies. “I would tell people to try it out. It's not somewhere everyone is going to stop, but once the word gets around, and people hear a friend likes it, they'll come try it out.”

It’s such feedback that makes Knight and Fry think that choosing this downtown location was a good choice.

“Downtowns are the core of any city,” said Knight. “And I see a serious transformation happening in downtown, with Shine restaurant, Matchedash Lofts coming and Carousel Collectible near the library. There's a shift happening and we want to be part of it.”

And people want healthy food and healthy options, he added.

The two have big plans to take the business further.

“Hopefully, by next year, we want to have a hot lunch that those working around here can come and scoop up for some ‘grab ‘n’ go lunch,’” said Knight.

The two also plan on adding a clean jar donation program, so people can bring in jars to be sanitized for reuse, added Fry.

Support from local organizations was imperative, said Knight. The Community Development Corporation, aside from providing entrepreneurial help, pointed them in the direction of the Pathways to Employment program, which helped them hire a staff member.

“We've had a lot of local business owners come over and congratulate us,” Knight said. “They've been really welcoming and excited to have us.”

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