Café Society

At Milly’s Market, siblings Liza and Greg Smith bring a little slice of Europe to Port Hope’s historic downtown.

Watershed Magazine: You took over the space formerly occupied by Food Inspired in downtown Port Hope. What inspires you?

Liza Smith: Our passion for food and bringing people together is at the heart of everything we do at Milly’s Market. We carefully curate artisanal goods from small businesses worldwide, ensuring that quality takes precedence over quantity.

When did you take over the location and what has the journey been like for you?

It was during Covid, and although it was disheartening to see what the pandemic did to the hospitality industry, we knew the future of food service was going to become more personal and intimate. We decided it was time for my brother Greg, with his 35 years in the corporate hospitality industry, to run the day-to-day operations of a small, family-oriented business. It didn’t take long to recognize a broader need in the Port Hope area for more specialized food options. Our goal was to take all the goodness of the Food Inspired original concept of home-made, ready-to-eat take home meals and redesign the space to be more market- based, offering a wider variety of food options, fresh produce, retail products not found in local supermarkets, and a broader meat and cheese selection. We were able to lease the adjacent space formerly occupied by First Choice Haircutters, and we took on a significant renovation and ultimately rebranded the business as Milly’s Market in January 2023.

Where does the name come from?

We named it after our late mother Mildred, who instilled a love of travel, exploration, and food in us. We hope to create a warm and welcoming environment where both locals and visitors can enjoy a variety of gourmet offerings. We’re committed to supporting small businesses, bringing unique, high-quality products to Port Hope, with a focus on sustainability and ethical practices from all over the world, and offering food that is delicious and made with care and purpose.

So, Milly’s is more than a fine food shop?

Yes, our customers can enjoy delicious, freshly baked treats and creative meals, made in-house or from local bakers, all with purposefully sourced ingredients. Our bistro and bakery are perfect for grabbing a meal or snack while perusing our wide selection of fresh produce, gelato by Death in Venice, beautifully crafted cheeses, imported pastas, and premium-grade meats. We believe in supporting small businesses because it ensures only the best quality products for our customers.

The décor is gorgeous, and you’ve stayed as true as possible – given modern fire regulations – to the historic charm of the space. Did you work with a design team?

Yes, we used Portage Design Group; Nick Goddard is amazing!

The place feels intimate. You only have seating for 10 and Port Hope gets busy in the summer; will you be offering more seating outside?

Yes, we’ll have café tables all around the building, and a few Muskoka chairs too. It is important that Milly’s feels as special to our customers as it does to us. We are paying attention to every detail; everything is selected to offer unique shopping and dining experiences. The concept we are opening with is our first phase; our intent is to expand to have dining events – from Sunday tea to guest chef dinners – where we will put tables out throughout the market.

You’re opening with pretty ambitious operating hours: seven in the morning to seven at night, seven days a week. Potentially challenging to staff!

We chose these hours because they are simple for everyone to remember, and also we need to grow into a staff that can support more hours, because ultimately we’d like to be open a little longer. We want to help draw people to downtown Port Hope and give them something more to do after 5pm. Ideally with the summer months upon us, we’ll be open later very soon.

Story by:
Signe Langford

[Summer 2023 departments]