It is full steam ahead for the Full Bellies indoor food market in St-Isidore.

With a lease for the Main Street building which formerly housed St-Isidore’s former video store finalized, renovations have already begun on what will be a produce and dry-goods store, gift shop and market for local suppliers to sell their wares. If all goes well, the new outlet will be ready to welcome customers on February 1.

Shoppers in the community – which lost it’s only grocery store last month – will be able to pack their own boxes of fresh produce and dry goods at the St-Isidore Full Bellies location.

“The actual shopping experience is going to be similar to how I operate Full Bellies in the summer,” said owner Amy Willis. “Everything is laid out and people will pack their own boxes – so they fill their own box with whatever they want.”

Operated as a food-sharing service, Full Bellies delivers boxes of fresh produce to about 150 families weekly in St-Isidore, Alexandria, Maxville, Vankleek Hill and Hawkesbury. In addition to the storefront, the St-Isidore location will serve as an area for volunteers to prepare boxes for deliveries to the other communities served by Full Bellies.

“We still have to pack boxes for Maxville, Alexandria, Hawkesbury and Vankleek Hill,” Willis noted.

The retail outlet portion of the St-Isidore location will also be more than just a place for shoppers to pick up boxes of produce. The front half of the store will be a gift shop featuring the wares of local vendors, decorated in the style of a 1950s-style home.

“You walk in and you’re going to feel like you’re walking into a home right out of the ’50s,” Willis described. “All of the furniture and shelving are going to serve as spaces for local businesses to display their products.”

Already, 25 local vendors have signed up to display and sell their items at the St-Isidore store and more are planned to be added.

“That really took off,” Willis said. “We have vendors from local honey, to handmade baby items, crochet items, coffee – so many cool things.”

Once shoppers have passed through the gift shop, they will enter the Full Bellies indoor produce market.

“The front part will be the home and then it will be like you’re walking into the market,” Willis explained. “You’re going to leave the house into the market and there will be all the produce.”

The availability of certain dry goods is also being added to Full Bellies. Dry goods will be offered for ‘premium’ baskets. The location will include a section where volunteers can repackage bulk dry goods.

“We’ll just buy bulk and divide it up into weekly-sized portions,” Willis said.

The St-Isidore building includes a full basement, which will be used for sorting orders and the repackaging of bulk dry goods. The basement will also include an area for home schooling and a play section for the children of volunteers.

“One of the main reasons for Full Bellies was family, so I really want to keep that as the bones of Full bellies,” Willis emphasized.

As St-Isidore is a predominantly Francophone community, Willis said every effort will be made to serve customers in both official languages.

“I will try my best with my own personal French and a lot of our volunteers speak French. We will do our best to communicate with anyone who comes in.”

Depending on volunteers, Willis plans to have the St-Isidore location open full time six days a week Monday to Saturday until at least 6 p.m.

“That way working families can grab a box before the store is closed.”

More information can be obtained by visiting the Full Bellies Facebook group, or by calling or texting Amy Willis at 613-601-9532. The Review ran a full feature on the Full Bellies food sharing service in our December 22, 2021,  print edition.

Although the building itself is not yet open, Full Bellies owner Amy Willis (in bus) was busy delivering food boxes to about two dozen customers last Friday (January 7) outside the new St-Isidore location. Photo: Reid Masson

Left to right: Volunteers Kyleigh Schrader-Jalbert, Nikole Jalbert, Melissa Chretien, and Pillar Willis joined Full Bellies founder Amy Willis during a recent delivery to Vankleek Hill. Photo: Reid Masson