By Jodi Peters
Photos by Amy Walker
At the corner of Columbia and West 18th Avenue, sandwiched between the Ontario and Yukon Street bike routes, sits a remarkable little store. The Home Grow-in Grocer occupies the corner of a residential lot and could be mistaken for someone’s garage or studio if not for the heaps of gorgeous produce, cheerful bedding plants and buckets of apples stacked outside. This unique grocer carries only natural and organic products grown or produced in British Columbia, no exceptions allowed. Deb Reynolds, the founder and owner of the store, personally sources every item in her shop. She knows the bakers, the farmers, the soap-makers, the butchers and the chocolatiers. She does her homework to make sure everyone along the line of production is supporting local economies at every step.
Reynolds sets herself apart from other BC-only grocers by taking the term local right back to the neighborhood. The store’s tangible aura can be felt from the moment you roll over the hill and see several brilliant blue recliners situated on the boulevard lawn, filled by neighbors stopping by with their dogs and/ or children. Reynolds also supports small urban producers. She gets tomatoes from a fellow who lives down the street and kale from a woman a few blocks from the store. There is also a diverse selection of processed products, from hand-made soap scented with cedar, to spicy dill pickles (courtesy of Thelma) that come from micro-scale home-businesses that you are unlikely to find anywhere else, unless it’s in your grandmother’s kitchen.
And the neighborhood can’t get enough! Reynold’s initial expectations of a trickle of five to 10 customers per day have been wildly exceeded by her current daily counts of between 50 and 700. Yet, her motivation has never been to draw huge crowds. Her wish is “for every child in BC to know what it’s like to eat BC produce,” and she offers a free BC apple for any child to munch on while his/ her parent shops.
Gaile Morrisey, an employee since last June, has a hard time narrowing down the Grocer’s best seller. Fresh baked banana bread consistently tops the list. However, she says many people come to the shop for staples, such as eggs, yoghurt, vegetables and pasta – the HG Grocer has just about everything you need to stock your pantry, and satisfy your sweet tooth.
Reynold’s commitment to small-scale, local producers and her relational approach to all aspects of her enterprise put her at the cutting edge of entrepreneurial community-building. And she couldn’t have chosen a better area to “go local” in. We live in a geographical region that has the capacity to feed us delightful, nourishing products year-round, and the HG Grocer bears witness to this on every shelf.