Fresh Future.

YOUR BUSINESS STARTS HERE  |  CASE STUDY with Jordan Dolson of Legacy Greens   

photo of Jordan inside of Legacy Greens  

Legacy Greens: how one Downtown Kitchener retailer is building a fresh future for herself and her customers. 

Jordan Dolson never imagined she’d be a small business owner, let alone a green grocer. With a degree in geography and a masters in public administration, Jordan initially set out to build a career in public service, working within municipal government. 


“I’m incredibly passionate about communities, cities and urban planning,” says Jordan, “but it only took a couple of years of working within the bureaucracy to recognize it was not for me. The inertia I experienced made me cynical.” 


At the time, Jordan was living in Vancouver, a city where the independent grocer scene is well developed and flourishing. She found herself gravitating to those small retailers. The customer experience was better, the food was fresher and more curated. 


At the age of 29, she began plotting her move into the green grocer world. “My parents moved away from traditional careers in their 30s to take up dairy farming, and I began experiencing that same draw, a desire to go back to the land.” 


A move home and a leap into retail

In 2013, she returned home to Listowel from Vancouver. In 2015, she took the leap into small business and retail. She opened Legacy Greens in Downtown Kitchener, to provide consumers with fresh produce, local foods, and grab-and-go snacks. 


Initially opened as a pop-up store, Legacy Green’s early success bolstered Jordan’s enthusiasm for small retail. It also made her more confident the concept would succeed.


“Our target customer lives within a four-block radius of the store. They typically come from a one or two person household and are looking for smaller portions and fresh, unique wares. They want to experience awesome people making awesome food,” says Jordan. “Beyond that, we have a really broad spectrum of demographic who shop at Legacy Greens, from baby boomers to young families.” 


Produce and freshly prepared foods with an eye for reducing food waste

From its small kitchen in the back of the shop, Legacy Greens turns out an array of delicious prepared foods: everything from soups to hummus. In a young business where margins are slim, the team strives to be super efficient, eliminating food waste and using “ugly” food as ingredients for its creations. 


A thoughtful analytic, Jordan has taken a methodical approach to building her business. Prior to opening, she worked at the Stratford and Kitchener markets to polish her merchandising and customer service skills. She sat in a cafe on King Street and counted foot traffic to pinpoint the very best store location. She also uses all of the marketing tools available, including an eCommerce-enabled website, to build her brand, engage current and prospective customers, and extend her business reach. Her biggest marketing channel by far is Instagram, a social feed that delights its 3,200 followers with bright and beautiful photos of the store and its wares.  


“Instagram is huge for us,” says Jordan. “Let me just say, we take awesome photos, and it works. People are very visual. They’ll see something posted and the next day they’ll be in the store searching for it.” 


A compelling customer experience built on doing the small things really well

Creating a compelling customer experience is also a big part of Legacy Green’s marketing mix. “Our staff are excellent at creating a great customer experience,” says Jordan. “If you are a regular we learn your name. We offer information. We greet you warmly when you walk in the door. These are all small things, but it turns the experience into something you want to come back for. People love it when they feel recognized and part of the community.” 


Jordan’s success to date with Legacy Greens has allowed her to now act on another dream: commercial property ownership. Last year, she purchased a former tailor shop property at 18 Ontario Street North, one block away from her current store. The small building, purchased from the original owner, will allow Jordan to operate Legacy Greens out of a property she owns. 


She beams with excitement when talking about the new store. “It’s going to have two levels, with retail on the first and a kitchen on the second floor. The square footage for the retail space is actually a bit smaller than our current location, but we’ll offset that with a new entrance and big bi-fold doors. It will give the store a real open air feel and allow us to merchandise onto the sidewalk.” Just like the current store, inventory will be very curated, with a limited choice that is designed to not overwhelm shoppers, but rather, provide the very best options.  “We don’t need more space to sell more produce. We will just rotate product more rapidly and receive deliveries more often to keep things very fresh.” 


Downtown Kitchener renaissance offers “amazing opportunity” for small retail

Prior to opening Legacy Greens, Jordan probably looked at seven to 10 different locations and explored a few cities in the tri-city area, but her preference was always for Downtown Kitchener. “I love being part of a renaissance. There’s so much energy around the architecture and the artists and the community and the new businesses. Cities in rebuilding mode offer amazing opportunities for small businesses. Lower rents allow people to take risks,” says Jordan. She is also excited to see more independent grocers coming into the core. Since Legacy Greens opened its doors, it has also been joined by fellow grocers J&P Grocery. 


Driven to see Downtown Kitchener and small retailers like herself succeed, Jordan has a hard time masking her impatience and ambition for more food-related businesses in the core. “I want more. I don’t see it happening fast enough. I want more people to take a risk. It can work here. It has worked for us. There is lots of disposable income in this city. If you know what you’re doing and can offer something consumers can’t get elsewhere, they’ll come.”


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 Jordan’s advice to other small business retailers:  “Plan out your break even sales before you open and make that goal in your first three months.  You need to move product and make the daily sales to pay yourself.”