New Jamaican grocery store in south Edmonton offers shoppers a taste of home
'We want to make sure you feel welcomed,' says Kim-Ann Wilson of Eat Jamaican
Salt fish, oxtail and jerk chicken.
Those are just some of the items on the shelves at a Jamaican grocery store in south Edmonton that opened in July.
After Kim-Ann Wilson and her family moved to the city in 2012, her mom struggled to find authentic Jamaican food in the city. The family is originally from Jamaica but moved to Edmonton from Ontario.
"It's very important to her to have yellow yams and sweet potatoes and stuff like that," Wilson, the store's owner, said on told CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.
More than 5,000 people in Edmonton have Jamaican heritage, according to Statistics Canada. The Canadian Encyclopedia says the city has one the largest concentrations of Jamaican immigrants in Canada.
Wilson said she saw a gap in the market before deciding to open Eat Jamaican this summer. She said it's the first Jamaican-specific grocery store on the south side of Edmonton since the 1970s.
"We said, OK, let's do this, because I'm sure my mom is not the only one looking for her sweet potatoes," Wilson said.
She said the store is particularly popular with younger folks, looking for their favourite snacks and beverages.
"It's really heartwarming to see the support and people that actually come in and order food."
The store orders food straight from Jamaica, trying to sell whatever is in season.
At the moment, jackfruit — the largest fruit to bear on trees in the world — is in stock.
Soon, the store will also carry soursop, a fruit in the custard apple family, named for its creamy feel similar to banana or coconut. It's commonly incorporated into drinks, syrups, smoothies, desserts, and ice creams.
Wilson said a number of people come into the shop curious for recommendations, such as what foods to try or spices to buy.
"It's definitely an educational experience as well to kind of introduce people to the Jamaican culture."
Edmonton pastor Leon Bogle is a loyal customer of the store and said it reminds him of home.
"What goes through my mind to just bring remembrance, remember the things that we grew up with," Bogle said.
The first things people notice when they walk into the store is the reggae music and a beautiful Jamaica mural on the wall, created by a local artist.
"We want to make sure you feel welcomed," Wilson said. "Jamaica is all about positive vibes and love."
Eat Jamaican is located at 9518 Ellerslie Rd. SW.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Thandiwe Konguavi