An Edmonton Farmers' Market Love Story

How Damini Mohan of Mini Kitchen and Connor Pellow of El Gringo's love and business grew at the farmers market.

Working at Edmonton Farmers’ Markets can be a lot of things.

It can be busy. It can be unpredictable.

Some days are exciting, other days—disappointing.

It often involves long hours, manual labour and a lot of people pleasing.

It may take you all over the city. And require a lot of early mornings.

You might make some farmers market friends—you’ll certainly see familiar faces.

It can be a great place to test your product and your patience.

It can also be good spot to grow your business and, if you’re like Damini Mohan of Mini Kitchen and Connor Pellow of El Gringo Foods, working at Edmonton Farmers Markets may also be where your love grows too.

Now married, Mohan, 35, and Pellow, 32, didn’t meet at the market, but their relationship—and businesses—grew from it. Edmonton Farmers’ Markets have played a big role in their relationship from the very beginning.

In fact, after just two dates, Pellow began to show up at the market where Mohan worked. On the one hand, he was interested in learning about the market business, but mostly, on the other hand, spending time at the market was one of the only ways he could spend time with Mohan who, at that time in 2014, was busy selling her frozen Indian fusion food at several markets a week.

“When I met Connor, I was very upfront with him. I said, ‘if you’re wanting to see me, it has to be at the market because this is what I’m doing and this is a priority for me,’” Mohan says.

So meeting at the market became their recurring date.

“He’d just sit on the cooler and chat and watch,” Mohan recalls of her admirer.

“After a couple of weeks, she said, ‘well if you’re sitting there you might as well do something,’” Pellow adds, describing the start of the relationship and his career in the local food industry.

Pellow began helping Mohan sell Mini Kitchen products at markets, then briefly ran a food truck (Spice Rickshaw) with Mohan and her mother. With the market and Mohan now taking up nearly all of his time, Pellow quit his full-time job as a heavy duty mechanic.

As their love grew, so did their business.

The Mini Kitchen operation expanded to a bigger facility in 2018 which was when Pellow started making and selling fresh salsas and small-batch chips under his new business El Gringo Foods. Eventually they secured booths side-by-side. Customers couldn’t visit Mini Kitchen without a stop at El Gringo and vice versa.

Mohan and Pellow rarely found a moment without each other.

“It’s not for everybody. Not everybody can do this,” Mohan warns, with a smile. “You’re together every single waking and sleeping moment. That’s a lot. To be with somebody that long, you have to really like the person.”

But being an entrepreneur can be a lonely business, and Mohan was grateful to have found a loving companion and business partner who understood, embraced and complemented her ambitions.

Mohan and Pellow were married in a small ceremony in August 2020.

They took three days off from the market to tie the knot.

The wedding honestly felt like a long-time coming, Mohan says.

“When I met him, it was like finding a missing piece of me. I just knew.”

- Damini Mohan

“We had been talking about getting married since our third date,” she says.

“You know that feeling when you see a friend after a really long time and you’re like ‘oh man, I missed you so much.’ That was the first thing that came to me when I saw him for the first time. I thought ‘oh man, I miss you so much.’ I just knew.”

In fact, for many years at the market, customers and vendors alike assumed the pair were already married.

“Many saw our relationship grow from our very first dates to marriage,” Mohan said.

Love at the farmers market happens more often than you’d think, according to Amy Hayduk, general manager for Edmonton’s 124 Street Grand Market, one of the markets where Mohan and Pellow sell.

“We have had a lot of connections made at the market. Vendor/patron pairings, vendor/vendor pairings, and little families that have been created from relationships that started at the market! Some of them are still working with us today, so we have seen their kids grow up. It's really quite special,” she says, adding that working the markets as a couple may mold a relationship unlike any other.

“If you can survive years of working markets together, that will speak mounds to the sort of bond you will have in your personal relationship.”

These days, Mohan and Pellow are doing much more than just surviving markets together. The hard-working, entrepreneurial couple are excitedly growing their business beyond the market vendor booth.

You’ll still find your favourite curries and chutneys, or salsa and chips, at the market, but they’re also getting products into grocery stores, shipping across the province, and even operating a small storefront out of their kitchen facility in south Edmonton.

“We work really hard. There are days where we’re working 20 hours a day. But we’re getting older. We are trying to work a little bit smarter, not as hard,” Mohan explains.

Edmonton Farmers’ Markets have played an integral part in Mohan and Pellow’s relationship. Many memories. Many choices they’ve made both personally and professionally, have been influenced by the market.

Edmonton Farmers’ Markets have shaped the last near-decade of their lives together and the couple is grateful for its role in their relationship.

But as the the newlyweds look to their lives ahead, they’re excited about what comes next, where their love and business grows now—beyond the market.

“When we think about ourselves, we want the memories to not just be at the farmers’ market. Even though we’ve had good memories there,” Mohan says.

“We’ve always prioritized the market, the business, rather than ourselves and with us getting married, a huge part of that to us means finally prioritizing each other and our families.”

This original story was written by Linda Hoang as part of her Lindork’s Lists newsletter. It’s been made publicly available as a sample to show the type of exclusive content, people profiles, feel-good stories, case studies and personal musings on social media, culture, food and other topics paid subscribers would receive first. Selected stories are later shared publicly on Linda’s blog. If you’re interested in getting exclusive content, content first, as well as supporting the work Linda does, become a free or paid subscriber.

Linda Hoang is a social media strategist, blogger, and former journalist based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.