The lessons learned from getting a supermarket in Prince Edward County to host a birthday party for a 4-year-old

Some children dream of having a birthday party at Disney World, while others might covet a party room at a local movie theatre with Frozen loot bags for the guests. 

But four-year-old Lev Goldfarb wanted his celebration to be an adventure down the grocery aisles at his favourite local Metro supermarket in Picton, Ont.

It was early January when the Israeli-born youngster asked his mother Hadas Brajtman for the unlikely “Metro Party.” She’s the head of the fledgling Jewish community in the rural community on the shores of Lake Ontario.

The family moved to Canada from Tel Aviv in 2019, shortly after Lev was born, to be closer to her parents who live in the area. 

Brajtman approached the managers at the Main Street store with her son’s unusual request. To her surprise, they jumped at the chance to do it—after a quick check with the head office for approval to cover insurance.

But what would a “Metro Party” consist of? The challenge involved coming up with a two-hour program that kept toddlers both busy and safe. 

What the supermarket came up with was a meeting with the butcher and a tour of the meat coolers, refilling the produce counter with fresh bananas, and a treasure hunt where Lev and his little guests raced to find a list of weekly specials including El Paso taco products and Charmin paper towels.

“That was the only time throughout the entire experience where I [thought] ‘This could maybe go south’ because they did run up and down the aisles a little bit,” admitted Paul Jones, the assistant manager who planned the day’s schedule. “But everyone was very well behaved and nobody got hurt.”

Lev Goldfarb, 4, stocks bananas in the Picton, Ont. Metro grocery store along with some family and friends, as assistant manager Paul Jones looks on (blue shirt) on Jan 21, 2023.

Jones, 29, has no children of his own—or even nieces or nephews—but he managed to come up with plenty of ideas to keep the seven kids entertained, while their delighted parents captured it all on their smartphones.

The assistant manager even joined in on the cupcake decorating, where he learned a thing or two himself, as he admits he isn’t much for cooking when he gets home to his two cats after a long shift at the store.

“Big mac and cheese guy,” he said, smiling over Zoom during an interview with The CJN Daily.

Jones and his boss, Murray Lupenette, reunited with Brajtman to talk about how their connection has sparked more ideas for Metro. One shopper now wants to have his 60th birthday party there—if the store gets a liquor licence.

But for Lev’s mom, who works in marketing for a local heritage site in Picton known as Base31, the gesture is also sparking more of a relationship with the area’s 100-member Jewish community.

Brajtman launched her own Israeli food catering business after first moving there, and many of the Jewish holiday celebrations are held in her backyard or in rented space.

“I always knew there was an issue with getting kosher and Jewish food, and I just assumed that it wasn’t something that was going to happen, you know?” she said, noting that she had just brought up the topic to Metro management.

Lupenette said his location used to rely on another store to do the ordering for Passover. But now, Picton’s store is planning to stock kosher products year-round. The community is compiling a list of their top food requests for the managers to consider, along with the possibility of yahrzeit candles.

Whether it’s the request for her four-year-old’s birthday party being fulfilled, or thoughts about what to add to the aisles being considered, Brajtman believes there’s an important takeaway here for all occasions.

“Dare to dare to ask.”