La Moisson grew from an inspired idea, quickly becoming a beloved family business. Now, the next generation shares their insight on the growing organic movement.
By Kavita Sabharwal
Photography by Christian Fleury
La Moisson started as an idea by Patrick Grohman to integrate organic foods into people’s daily lives. Founded in 1990, Patrick and his wife Lise were ahead of the curve when they chose Sainte-Thérèse, home to 27,000 citizens, to house their natural health food market.
“He decided that he wanted to go into a health food market. That was the future in the years to come. He was really looking far ahead, but at the time it wasn’t very popular,” says current co-owner Stéphan Tremblay. “He started with a really small place. It was a big risk and year-to-year he started growing until what we are now.”
Patrick has since retired, and the store’s operations have been taken over by the next generation of his family: his daughters Kathleen and Marie-Claude Grohman, along with Stéphan, Marie-Claude’s husband.
Kathleen, who has worked at the store since its inception, supervises the food department and cashiers, and manages the store’s website. Marie-Claude supervises accounting, administration and the store’s computer systems, and Stephan manages the beauty and cosmetics section, the store’s publicity and supervises store maintenance.
La Moisson is a family business in more ways than one, as Stéphan says that he and his family eat organic as much as they can.
“We endorse the organic lifestyle. That’s why we have so much success, because our mission is to teach people as much as we can how to take care of themselves, how to discover organic and why they should eat organic.”
Though the 16,500 square-foot market may be large in size, it manages to maintain a homey feel. The owners are very selective about what they put in-store, but have one stipulation: everything must be 100 per cent natural.
“The food has to be good for the health. We don’t take anything that is not 100 per cent pure in our store,” says Stéphan, a fact that has earned the store two prestigious awards: the Brock Elliott excellence award from CHFA Quebec in 2013, and a Consumer Choice Award for Montreal in the category of Health Food Store in 2014.
Spreading the word
The store employs 60 people and boasts the most specialists and health food consultants for every issue under the sun in their food, supplement, and beauty and health departments, alongside homeopaths and naturopaths.
“They’re here for when people want information, to answer every question on the floor every day. You name it, we have it,” says Stéphan.
Stéphan was initially brought on board for La Moisson to handle the publicity of the store, and has built up their publicity budget over the last seven years. This year, the company has set aside a budget of $300,000 for newspaper flyers, radio advertisements and television commercials in Montreal.
“It has been very expensive but very good for the store, because there are a lot of stores like us. It’s been very good for us,” he says.
In order to keep things fresh, La Moisson often makes changes to the market’s set-up. When the store first opened it was only about 2,000 square feet, so they have moved locations four times to accommodate their growing merchandise and client base.
This January, they opened a large auditorium-style conference room with a capacity of up to 70 people to hold training sessions for employees.
“We hold conferences that are done once a month, a whole day of training for naturopaths that keep them up to date,” says Stéphan, mentioning the other departments also undergo monthly training days. “We’re working a lot on the formation of our employees. It’s important for us that everybody is up to date and once somebody comes here they have the answer for these people who need help.”
The store also offers information sessions for customers on any number of topics including cancer, health food and beauty, to name a few. They also hold free weekly seminars for customers to see specialists and ask questions.
“Our mission is to teach people what they want to know, what we can teach them to help them set a better lifestyle,” says Stéphan.
Despite La Moisson’s popularity, the owners currently have no intention of opening another location. “We have one location and its working great because it’s a family enterprise. All three of us are here every day and we give 100 per cent of our time here so I guess that’s the secret of our success,” he says. “We don’t want to extend ourselves and try to get the same ambience we have here because we started as a small family store and although now we’re up to 60 employees, it’s important that the family experience is there.”
Stéphan is proud of how much the employees love to come to work. “It’s important for us when somebody works here, they’re happy in the morning and they can’t wait to come to work,” he says. “If we start opening up other stores, it may be a problem to have the same vision that we have here. Not only for the money, but also for the quality of life that we have working here. It’s exceptional and you don’t get that everywhere.”
As for the store’s succession plans, Stéphan says that the next generation of the family, his two sons and nephew, may take over the store one day.
“We’ll see what is going to happen,” he says. “We’re really going day by day with the evolution of the store.”
At the root of everything they do, La Moisson has one goal: to teach people how to care for their health. Whether that is through offering excellent organic food choices or providing them with experts to answer all their food- and health-related questions, the storeowners will keep this goal at the forefront of their minds for generations to come. IHR
AT A GLANCE
Name: La Moisson
Owner: Kathleen Grohman, Marie-Claude Grohman and Stéphan Tremblay
Location: 360 rue Sicard, Sainte-Thérèse, QC
Store Size: 16,500 square feet
Food: gluten-free products, raw foods
Vitamins & supplements: omegas, probiotics,
Cosmetics: face creams, hair colour