When her three-year-old son told her about celebrating his upcoming 4th birthday party at their local grocery store in Picton, Ont., Hadas Brajtman and her husband were not surprised.

She said it made sense that her son, Lev Goldfarb, asked for a "Metro Party."

"He's a child that grew up during COVID, so grocery stores played a role in his life more than we know," Brajtman said in an interview with CP24.com on Thursday.

"It was often the only place that was open that we can go to and feel normal and see other people and engage in conversation. So, Metro is a place that he loves to go to."

Brajtman also thinks Lev associates the grocery store with birthdays because the store sells balloons, birthday cards, cakes and other party treats. "It's for kids. It's vibrant, it's colourful," she said.

Lev's birthday

Born on Jan. 12, 2019, Lev never had a big party to mark his birthday, her mother said. Due to the pandemic, his first three birthdays were spent at their small house in the Prince Edward County community with his immediate family.

So, when Lev told them a few months ago about celebrating at the nearby Metro, Brajtman said she and her husband thought it was a cute request but eventually brushed it off, assuming that the store would never agree to it.

But they were wrong.

Earlier this month, days before Lev's birthday, Brajtman's sister-in-law shared Lev's wish with the store's assistant manager, Paul Jones.

"She voiced how much of a fan Lev is of Metro. He's a super fan, so to speak, and that he actually wants to have his birthday party at Metro," Jones said.

"I thought it was just something a four-year-old might say, just to be funny, maybe. I didn't realize it was super serious at the time."

So, when Brajtman came a week later to inquire about the party, Jones said yes -- a response Brajtman was not expecting.

"I assumed that the answer would be no because this is something that I've never seen done before," she said.

"But the fact that they were willing to make it happen and to listen to a customer, and to dare to do something, even though it's never been done before, that was a really inspirational thing for me."

As for Jones, he got excited to host a party at the store for the first time. The store had only been doing food bank drives and community barbecues.

"This guy's four years old. His whole life has been COVID. And during the last three years or so, he hasn't been able to do anything except go to the grocery store. So to me, as a four-year-old, you'd want to go to the zoo, or you'd want to go bowling. But those weren't open," Jones said.

"Those weren't options over the last three or four years. So it honestly makes a lot of sense why you'd want to have this party here because that's been their outing."

The birthday party was held on Jan. 21 and what Jones and his colleagues did in a short amount of time to make Lev's special day more meaningful was beyond Brajtman's expectations.

"It blew me out of the water. It was so beautiful," Brajtman said.

Lev, his older sister, and six other guests were welcomed with Happy Birthday posters as they walked into the store last Saturday morning. They were given name tags and Metro birthday hats.

Jones and his team set up stations where Lev and his guests could experience what workers do. After singing Happy Birthday using the PA system, the children got a tour of the store. They helped stock bananas, met and assisted the butcher, made their own pizza and decorated cupcakes.

Lev's birthday

Jones said there was a "buzz" in the small Metro store that Saturday as half a dozen young people went up and down the aisles while customers looked on.

"It means a lot to me to see the joy that's on all their faces. And it's really just a celebration of community here," he said.

Lev and his guests were given a list of grocery items by Jones that they needed to find around the store. And finally, they went to the staff's break room, which had been turned into a party room decorated with balloons and streamers.

Lev's 4th birthday party was a success.

"He was just so happy," Brajtman said. "He felt so comfortable. He enjoyed seeing things for the first time and being with his friends and family."

Brajtman said the event showed how incredible their small community is. The family moved to Picton in 2019 from Tel Aviv, Israel.

She added that the celebration was also a great learning experience for the children as they saw how things worked at their local grocery store.

"It reaffirmed…the importance of experiences in kids' lives, especially when it comes to things like grocery stores, for them to see how things are made that food doesn't magically appear on the shelves. There are people who are working," Brajtman said.

Lev's party