Nothing cheesy about Alex Farm Products

Christian Thomas, Vasilis Katranis and Sheila Gao behind the counter at Alex Farm Products, 1578 Bayview Ave. Photo by Lorna Krawchuk.

There is a long history of gourmet purveyor Alex Farm Products on Bayview. The original Alex came from Greece and started up his one-location business, but about 20 years ago decided to establish a small franchise business.

Enter Sheila Gao, from Japan, with a Ph.D. in chemistry and a research career at York University, along with her husband, who decided they were looking for a business to invest in. And specifically, a food business. Their first foray was in fast foods before, four years ago, they bought the Alex Farm Products Beaches location. A year ago, the owner of the Bayview franchise wanted to retire, and seeing Bayview as a good location, Sheila and her husband decided to buy.

Alex Farm Products came with an experienced staff already in place.

Vasilis Katranis, originally from Thessaloniki, and with a Master’s degree in Food Sciences, started working weekends at the Bayview Alex’s about four years ago and gradually became a full-time employee.  According to Sheila, “he came with the store,” and is now the manager.

Also behind the counter is Christian Thomas, who has worked at Alex’s for the past four years. He is an almost-Leasider, his family living on Broadway west of Bayview, but Christian attended the French Immersion stream at Northlea and then went to Leaside High School. A buddy at Leaside had worked part-time at Alex’s, so Christian knew it would be a nice place to work. He also started working there on weekends during his time at Ryerson and full-time over the summers. Now, he has a degree in Computer Science, but with no job currently in his field, he’s happy to continue working full-time at the Bayview store.

And about the cheeses

After speaking with the staff, I took a closer look at what was sitting on the table between us. It looked like six cannon balls, but was really six black-waxed balls of Mimolette cheese. Mimolette is a fond memory in our family as a yellow cheese we could buy when we lived in France for our then 12-year-old daughter, who didn’t really like fancy cheeses. Maybe I should ship her some? Alex’s could handle that for me – vacuum-packed and ready to go. 

The closest-to-home cheese is from Jordan’s Upper Canada Cheese Company. The milk to make Niagara Gold is exclusively from Guernsey cows. The farthest-away cheese is Australia’s Old Croc, an extra sharp white cheddar. The best sellers for Christmas were a holiday cheddar and Vacherin Mont d’Or. But if you’re going for smelliest, choose a French Epoisses – the longer it’s aged, the stronger it gets. And for pricey? Try the Barolo – ripened while coated with Nebbiolo grapes.

While the refrigerated cheese cases hold impressive wares, you can also pick up frozen pies made by The Pie Commission, as well as oils, balsamics, olives, coffee beans and other treats.

About Lorna Krawchuk 177 Articles
Lorna Krawchuk is publisher of Leaside Life. She is actively involved in St. Cuthbert’s Church. Her volunteer activities with the Leaside Property Owners’ Association led to her being elected a Councillor in the Borough of East York for 9 years before amalgamation in 1998. She also held a variety of volunteer leadership positions with the Girl Guides of Canada for over 30 years. Lorna has been a Leasider since 1968.