February 18, 2023
| accelerator

Essential Kitchen delivers essential experience to Cornwall

Municipality: City of Cornwall

It’s only been a few months since Stacia Carlton opened Essential Kitchen cooking studio and wine bar in Cornwall, but behind those months is a decade of planning. Essential kitchen is the culmination of Carlton’s 40 years spent orbiting around the culinary experience and finding ways to connect people with the food on their plates.

Photo by: David Simon, Sandbox Photovideo

She started her career as a cocktail server at 15 (“Until my dad found out,” says Carlton with a laugh) and worked in restaurants until she started a family of her own. “I realized restaurant work didn’t coexist very well with motherhood,” she says. “I started doing private parties in peoples’ homes and cooking, then I did recipe development and studio chef work… I also wrote for a magazine for years about the food scene in Toronto.”

Photo by: David Simon, Sandbox Photovideo

As her kids grew, Carlton felt a push to leave Toronto. Her mother had moved back to Cornwall, Carlton’s hometown. It felt like a sign that Cornwall was the right place for her cooking studio. “That was when it really solidified, and I put pen to paper and planning with a business mentor.”

Her mother’s return to Cornwall wasn’t the only draw. Carlton had taken stock of the burgeoning agri-business scene in the area and the growth of a “bring it back to local” mindset. On paper, those factors made Cornwall the perfect spot to establish her culinary hub – a place where like-minded individuals could come together and share their passion for food and wine. “When I got here, I realized there was a true lack of fresh food downtown,” says Carlton. She also discovered there was nowhere to get alcohol downtown. “There are a lot of people who live downtown who don't necessarily want to have to go to the East End or to Ninth Street at Brookdale to pick up a bottle of wine after dinner.”

Photo by: David Simon, Sandbox Photovideo

Around this time she was introduced to Mandy Prevost and the My Main Street Local Business Accelerator program, which aims to revitalize business communities through hands-on support. Prevost is Cornwall’s My Main Street Ambassador for the program which is funded with a $23.25-million Government of Canada investment through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and delivered by the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO).

Prevost was drawn to Stacia’s business right away. “She was bringing something completely new to the area… something we haven't seen before, and it provided an activity for people to gather.”

Photo by: David Simon, Sandbox Photovideo (Stacia Carlton and Mandy Prevost)

Together, they pored over My Main Street’s in-depth market research on the demographics, interests, and social media use in Cornwall which confirmed a lot of things that already felt intuitive to Carlton. The data identified that Carlton’s target demographic – 45 years old and up – represented a significant part of the population and found that 57% of households are single occupancy signifying an opportunity for social events. Food, recreation, and alcohol had a high index under spending habits.

Prevost says the data also reinforced the idea to include a variety of price points for cooking classes to ensure anyone could participate. “It really validated what she was doing.”

With the market data in hand and a $10,000 non-repayable contribution received through My Main Street, Carlton fine-tuned her vision, expanding beyond just the cooking studio to include a small market with fresh groceries, the wine bar, and a curated selection of cooking tools for sale. Every element of Essential Kitchen is designed to fill a void in the current market. “There’s stuff here that you can’t find elsewhere in the area.”

Photo by: David Simon, Sandbox Photovideo

As for the $10,000 non-repayable contribution, she wanted to make sure it wasn’t lost amongst the startup costs of running a new business. “I really truly dedicated it exclusively to the betterment of the class and event experience,” she says. Carlton feels like she’s done that – creating a unique community space in the process. “Every time there’s an event, I overhear people say, ‘wow, Cornwall really needed this.’ “

About My Main Street

My Main Street is a $23.25-million Government of Canada investment through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to support the recovery and revitalization of main streets and local businesses in southern Ontario. The Canadian Urban Institute and the Economic Developers Council of Ontario have partnered to deliver My Main Street through two program streams. Learn more at www.mymainstreet.ca.

About FedDev Ontario

For 13 years, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation, growth and job creation in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving productivity, growing revenues, creating jobs, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects, our Southern Ontario Spotlight, and FedDev Ontario’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.


My Main Street is operated by the Canadian Urban Institute and funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

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