What began as a late night riff on snack food culture has become reality: Doug Stephen and Lindsey Mann (DownLow Chicken) team up with urban streetwear entrepreneur and art collector Zach Wilcox (Future Grownup), to take the traditional convenience store to the next level with the opening of The Drive Canteen.
The Canteen has been in the works for a while. Every time the concept was explained to me over the past year, it had always been described as “like a 7-Eleven, but better.” To me, that meant chips, pop, candy, and an ATM. Clearly I was missing something.
When I finally slipped in to check the place out earlier this week, I got it. Yes, The Canteen will carry convenience store classics like chips, pop, and candy, but they will be very specific versions of the typical staples (very particular potato chips, thoughtfully composed bags of candy mixed to deliver unique flavour profiles, and a carefully curated drink cooler). There will also be killer glizzies (hot dogs), a made-to-order spiced nacho situation, soft serve and slushies, as well as chocolate bars and pizza pockets.
To be clear, there is a lot of respect for Dank Mart and Lucky’s floating around The Canteen. There may even be some product overlap (don’t be surprised if you see canned Peach Crush, a peanut butter cup or a bag of Old Dutch Ketchup potato chips here). But the hotdogs are Two Rivers, the nacho chips are made fresh daily (at DownLow) and the coolest of the chocolate bars on these shelves come straight from the genius mind of Adam Chandler (Beta5), designed specifically for The Canteen. The vision here is to recreate snack culture with local options.
As co-owner Doug Stephen explains: “Instead of just the usual mass market brands you may find at traditional convenience stores, we’ve tapped a few of our good friends to help us stock the shelves with locally-made treats…” (think Scarlito’s Way and Chaotic Good cookies, Jamaican patties by Elbo Patties; Dumplings by Dicky’s Dump; DL Chicken spicy dill pickles, lemonade and sweet tea, and dipping sauces, spiced corn nuts, and housemade granola bars).
And it doesn’t stop there. The Canteen will be there to indulge all of your nacho fantasies and chocolate bar cravings, but there will also be art, sneakers, clothing, and music.
Sneaker refurbisher Josh Jose will have an onsite repair shop where he’ll be fixing-up cool shoes for his Hysoles display wall (shoes will have a two-tier pricing system that will offer heavily discounted prices to high school students). There will be art on the walls (a revenue-neutral community gallery space is planned for downstairs in the near future), curated streetwear, and video games (the team are currently looking to score Street Fighter and Tekken). Teenage Doug, Zach and Lindsey are having fun.
The 1950 sqft grab-and-go plus retail concept and community hub will have indoor bench seating for 4-6 people, and a patio out back (picnic tables to come). The Drive Canteen aims to have “Doors open and music on” beginning next week. Keep your eye on their IG feed for details. See photos below.
Congratulations to the opening team: Lindsey Mann (owner); Doug Stephen (owner); Zach Wilcox (owner); Connor Gyori (GM); Josh Jose (Sneaker Expert).