"Real food for real people."
That’s just one of the ways Nicolette Genier describes the vast amount of goods crowding the shelves at the newly relocated, expanded and improved Community Farm Store, which will celebrate its grand opening this weekend.
What started in Glenora in 2003 as a tiny operation with just two employees and expanded 10 years later to a 2,500-square-foot store in the Duncan Garage with six employees has now moved to a 10,000-square-foot operation just south of the city next to the Brick.
The move was necessitated by a number of factors.
"We were too small for the amount of products that we had and for the number of customers we were serving," Genier explained, adding that the new location provides customers with easier access off the highway and better parking.
The unique business has also increased its employee base from half a dozen to more than 40.
"It takes a lot of people, a lot of dedication and commitment, not just to run a store, but to keep to our mandate," Genier related.
That mandate, she explains, is to provide food and other products that are both "good for the community and good for the planet." That means all products are organic – certified whenever possible – and as local, ethical and fairtrade as possible. And look elsewhere for genetically modified organisms.
"We’re one of a small number of stores in North American who have taken a stand and are not selling any GMOs," Genier said. "We’re hoping to lead the way."
That stance doesn’t limit the number of things the store can stock its shelves with.
"We’re choc-a-block full of good, healthy food," Genier said. "There’s no less choice because we have eliminated GMO food."
The new store is located in the old NAPA auto parts shop, which has been completely converted to a full-service grocery store.
Produce manager Bryan Lawson, who was working at a big store on the Mainland, jumped at the chance to work for a store with such clear, lofty ideals. He’s proud of the products he’s got on display.
"It’s almost all certified organic, and everything is as ethically sourced as possible," he said.
"It’s real food. We’re really passionate about offering this to people."
Beyond Lawson’s fruits and vegetables, there is a large selection of cheeses and meats, and bulk bins with close to 100 varieties of beans, seeds, rice, grains, sugar, salt, flour and pasta "That was one of the things we wanted to expand on [from the old location]," Genier noted.
The store also includes a teaching kitchen where demonstrations will be taking place constantly, a custom-built apothecary with more than 400 herbs, spices and teas, both culinary and medicinal, and a wellness department staffed seven days a week by certified nutritionists and herbalists.
All that is just on the main floor. There is more room upstairs for staff, with the possibility for events like artisan markets and workshops. And any space that remains after the shelves are stocked is packed with African baskets and a gallery’s worth of local art, all for sale.
The Community Farm Store isn’t exactly a co-op, but it is membership-based. Members get two per cent of their purchases back, which they can donate to non-profit organizations or put back toward their own groceries.
"We’re very active in the community, so there are lots of things we can share with them," Genier said.
The Duncan Garage still houses the popular cafÃƒÂ©, and while the main Community Farm Store has relocated, there are plans to open the first of many satellite shops in the downtown building.
The grand opening of the new central store will take place this weekend, beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. The two days will feature live music, raffles for gift baskets, and demonstrations from local businesses like the Vancouver Island Salt Co., Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt and Culturalive Sauerkraut,. Genier is encouraging the whole community to check out the new location. "It’s pretty phenomenal what