SUDBURY -- Battistellis’ Independent Grocer in Lively has won a national award as Independent Grocer of the Year for 2020. Independent grocers from across Ontario compete for the title annually.

Brent Battistelli, owner of Battistellis’ Independent Grocer, said he’s thrilled to receive a gold medal and national recognition for his store, especially during such a challenging year.

“Initially, I was quite surprised and quite pleased," Battistelli said.

"I mean, to be chosen the top grocer in your size category nationally is quite an honour. Last March, the first three or four months were challenging. There was a lot of panic buying, a lot of adjustments and now we know what we have to do when we come in. We’re sanitizing, we’re cleaning, we’re doing all the extra things and trying to maintain masks in the store."

The store has also won three bronze awards in the past, and Battistelli said he enters the competition as a way to make regular improvements within his operation.

“I’ve always looked at it as an opportunity to learn and get an evaluation of your store so that you can look at different aspects of it from a customer's perspective,” he said.

Assistant store manager Patrick Minifie said they could not have won this award without the help from the entire staff.

“It is a team award and it’s nice that every department works together," Minifie said. "It’s not just 'I want to be the best for produce or for grocery.' People like to work together.”

Battistelli said he is looking forward to what the rest of 2021 has to offer, and plans to enter his store in the Independent Grocer of the Year competition again next year.