Greenhouses part of store’s ‘only local’ focus
August 4, 2009 By By Judy Creighton THE CANADIAN PRESS
Aug. 4, 2009, Courtenay, B.C. — The 100-Mile Diet originated in British
Columbia and now, in what may be another first in the province, or
perhaps even in Canada for that matter, is a grocery store selling only
locally grown or produced foods.
Aug. 4, 2009, Courtenay, B.C. — The 100-Mile Diet originated in British Columbia and now, in what may be another first in the province, or perhaps even in Canada for that matter, is a grocery store selling only locally grown or produced foods.
Brambles Market in Courtenay, B.C., in the agricultural region of Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, opened early this year and the couple who launched it are still reeling over its success.
“After only six months we have a loyal customer base, so much so that they bring their families and friends who in turn are shopping here,’’ says Angeline Street, 36. She and her husband James, 34 and a chef by profession, decided to source local foods from the island, the lower Mainland along with a few products from the Okanagan.
“Rather than just going the 100-mile radius, we went to B.C. as it gives us a lot more options,’’ says Angeline, who has worked in retail for several years. “So our mandate is if it is grown in B.C. and processed in the province we’ll consider sourcing it,’’ she explains.
The pair gave the market’s unique name Brambles for the wild blackberries which grow in abundance in the valley.
The 185-square-metre market, which previously was a car dealership, a health-food store and latterly an ink refill cartridge outlet, is not, “laid out like a traditional grocery store,’’ Street says. “I wanted to get away from people aimlessly walking up and down the aisle picking up the same items week after week. This store is designed so you have to pay attention. You have to look around and discover the new things we bring in every week.’’
Their customers have to enjoy shopping and appreciate the fresh produce “because it is so amazing and gorgeous.’’
Street says unlike mainstream grocery stores, “we had to make up our own rules creating our own distribution and shipping as we draw up a product list.’’
And because they don’t deal with a lot of middlemen on many products “we are cheaper than most of the grocery stores in town.’’
However, Street does admit that Brambles carries some pricey products, such as a balsamic vinegar at $70 a bottle. But it is locally produced at Venturi-Schulze, one of Vancouver Island’s charter wineries producing Canada’s only balsamico tradizionale. This means it meets balsamic requirements, yet it’s not “official’’ since it has been produced outside Italy.
Street says the market sells locally caught fresh wild fish, organic meat and poultry and breads made by bakers in the area.
'LETTUCE AND CUCUMBERS COMING OUT
OF GREENHOUSES ON THE MAINLAND'
“During the winter months we had a fair amount of local produce such as kiwis grown in Victoria as well as homegrown apples, pears, squash and carrots, as well as lettuce and cucumbers coming out of greenhouses on the mainland.’’
She points out that this shows customers what is available and what they should be eating seasonally. “We do have access to frozen locally grown fruit and in fact we had berries all winter,’’ Street says, “but the challenge is there isn’t the infrastructure for a lot of local fruits and vegetables to be frozen and I haven’t been able to find a local supply of canned fruit.’’
Getting the whole premise of eating local year-round and grasping the significance still eludes many consumers, she says. “When you are standing in front of the canned tuna aisle in your supermarket and have a can of B.C. tuna in one hand and a tin of one from Thailand in the other, you really need to choose the B.C. tuna. This is because eventually all the canneries that are left – and there aren’t very many (there used to be hundreds on the west coast) – that cannery is going to go deeper and deeper in the hole. Eventually it is going to shut down and there is nowhere for the fishermen to sell their catches. Then we will all stand around saying, ‘Why can’t we get fresh fish around here any more?’’’
Judy Creighton welcomes letters at 9 Kinnell St., Hamilton, Ont., L8R 2J8, but cannot promise to answer all correspondence personally. She can also be reached by email at email@example.com.
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