Last month I wrote about one of the more recent connections I’ve made through Singing Bowl Granola, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Jen, and what a dear friend she is, not to mention, a local hero.
October 2012, I’ve just finished my second season of selling granola at local farmers’ markets, and I’ve developed a taste for this biz. I’m buzzing from the high of repeat customers, new customers, knowing I’ve hit a bit of a winner with my products. Market season has ended, but I’m not ready to stop making and selling granola. Next step – make Singing Bowl Granola a year round venture by getting it onto the shelves in local stores.
Let me assure anyone dreaming of starting a food business, that the leap from farmers’ markets to retail outlets is daunting at best, terrifying to those of us who are not overly comfortable with authority. Hoops. There were a whole whack of hoops to jump through, but, with the tenacity of a terrier, I jumped through everything thrown in my way. After several weeks of completing paperwork, promising not to poison anyone, and locating a commercial kitchen I could use, I was ready to approach our local stores to see if they wanted to carry the very best granola in town.
Of course, I did what every Victoria-based food producer does at one point or another – I went and spoke to Jen at the Niagara Grocery in the James Bay neighbourhood of Victoria. I’d barely walked through the door, spiel ready, before Jen happily assured me that, of course, they would carry my granolas. ‘Cuz that’s what Jen does. She supports her community. Jen is always willing to give new food producers an opportunity to sell their wares in her charming neighbourhood store. And she is keen to make sure her community always has a great selection of locally produced goods to choose from.
Jen’s amazing openness and welcoming nature bolstered my confidence sufficiently to approach other store managers. Before long I was making regular deliveries to half a dozen stores in Victoria. That number grew steadily, and now the first thing people say when they see me these days is, “I see your stuff EVERYWHERE.” It gives me a lovely rock star feeling (before I remember that I am merely a purveyor of toasted oats).
Singing Bowl Granola's Specialty Porridge ready to hit the shelves at Niagara Grocery.
Since starting this blog post, Niagara Grocery has, sadly, closed its doors for the last time. Jen’s undying commitment to providing her neighbours with good food and providing producers and growers with a fairly paid outlet to sell their wares over the past eight years was a small heroic act in this era of box stores and mass production.
Chances are good that you have a Jen and a Niagara-type store in your neighbourhood. Be sure to support them. Get your milk from them. If they’re bringing in fresh veggies from local farms, buy your veggies from them. Seek out the locally produced chocolate or crackers or granola or roasted coffee, and treat yourself to these specialty items. They taste better, they’re better for you, they’re better for the planet, they’re better for your karma. As you head out the door of your neighbourhood store with your bag full of all things local, be sure to thank the owner who went out of their way to make buying local easy, and took the risk to give local producers the chance to succeed.
Jen always takes pride is her local wares.