The Blue Olive serves up culture in New Brunswick

New grocery store, restaurant brings diversity to the Moncton culinary scene.

It’s been a dream 18 years in the making.

Photo by Katie Cushing


“Our store, I think, is the most diversified place in Moncton,” says Dieppe’s Blue Olive proprietor Mohamed Ali Mhalla.

sweeping glance across just one shelf of the 451 Paul St. international
grocery store reveals food from Turkey, Greece, Canada, Thailand,
Tunisia and Greece.

When Mhalla arrived as a student in Moncton
in 1990, he had a hard time finding the cooking ingredients he was used
to. It was a problem that persisted right into the present.

international community couldn’t find what they need,” he says. “They
had to go to Halifax or Montreal to get what they need.” Mhalla, who
recently completed a masters in business at l’Universit√© de Moncton,
started preparing a plan for the restaurant last March.

“I chose
the name [the Blue Olive] because the blue represents the Mediterranean
sea, and the olive is common in Mediterranean cooking,” says the
Tunisian-born man, who along with wife Nathalie Beaudin of Lameque,
welcomed a baby boy just six months ago.

“In the beginning, we started with a list of what people needed,” he says.

colourfully painted grocery store currently offers a wide range spices,
soft drinks, different types of rice, candies, puddings, pasta and meat
(“We’re the only place that offers Halal meat for Muslims, maybe in New
Brunswick,” Mhalla says). And if Mhalla doesn’t carry what you’re
looking for, he’ll be happy to try and find it and bring it in.

has big plans for his business: starting next month, The Blue Olive
will function as a restaurant as well as a grocery store. The
restaurant will have a bit of a twist, however; unlike most eating
establishments where ‘secret’ recipes are carefully guarded, patrons of
The Blue Olive will be welcome to take the recipe of what they’ve just
eaten home, so they can try it themselves.

Not only will the
restaurant serve Mediterranean staples such as shawarmas, couscous,
kebabs, salads, pita sandwiches, coffees, teas and pastries, but
they’ll also feature a different international cuisine every week.

“We have lots of people interested in working with us,” Mhalla says.

Currently, he’s in talks with local French, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, Moroccan and Mexican chefs.

Mhalla plans to produce an in-store cuisine magazine. He also hopes to offer cooking classes at a future date.

present time, Mhalla employs a staff of two in addition to himself.
Once the restaurant opens, that number will jump to six or seven. The
grocery store is open seven days a week: 9 a.m. through 9 p.m. Monday
to Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The restaurant is
tentatively set to open on Nov. 16 or 17.

Since opening its doors
last month, the Blue Olive has been doing a steady business. And Mhalla
has found it’s not only immigrants and international students who are
enjoying his store: a good 80 per cent of his customers are Canadians.

“We’re trying to create a sense of community,” Mhalla says.