Prince George is a city of just over 74,000 with the heart of a small community. You’ve heard it before, but what do we mean by that? What’s the definition of a community? In my opinion, it’s people being there for other people around them; it’s people going the extra mile to support others in their community; it’s people rallying around their own. Prince George is these people. As Rhea Simpson of Col Juicery says, “PG is a great example of people supporting local.”
One common way people strive to support their community is by sourcing food as locally as possible. Support the farmer, support the producer, support the entrepreneur, support the local economy… it all leads to supporting your community. I’ve noticed a lot of our Prince George food and drink establishments touting their use of local lately, so I set out to explore that a bit. You can’t get much more local than eating food produced by or sourced from your neighbour.
I talked to three of my favourite local food and drink related businesses about what local means to them and why they feel it’s important to support other small and local businesses. What they had to say is inspiring!
I talked to Rhea, the beyond lovely boss lady behind Col Juicery about supporting local first. She told me that they try to source as much as they can as locally as possible including lots of their produce, depending on the season, and much of their packaging as well. At their Juice & Smoothie Bar at the Charles Jago Northern Sports Centre at UNBC, they carry food from PlayGrounds Café, another local gem (see below!), because, as Rhea says, not only is their food amazing, but PlayGrounds is very supportive of them too, and were their first wholesaler: “Their support has enabled me to want to support other people.”
Now, Col Juicery is proud to help other start-ups with their own businesses too. They work with Bassy’s Biscuits, who makes healthy treats for dogs out of the byproducts from Col’s juices, those that would otherwise get composted. They’re also working with The Prepnut, a new local start-up that makes vegan protein bars, which will be available at Col’s shop as well.
“It’s really great to support someone’s start up and see it grow and watch what they can do for their community,” says Rhea.
Jeni Arnott, owner of PlayGrounds Café, echoes the importance of community: “When we support each other, that means our businesses and community will grow together.” For Jeni, building strong relationships with the businesses she’s working with is key. She mentioned Col Juicery as a big one for them, as they collaborate on many things, from events, to grocery ordering and sourcing suppliers together (they also carry Col juices at their café!). They also have a mutually beneficial relationship with Trench Brewery, sourcing their product for special events, and supplying them with food. Jeni says local, to her, means Prince George first (like Col, Trench, Homesteader Meats, Dome Greenhouse at UNBC, etc), northern BC second (e.g. they get some of their meats and chicken from Dawson Creek), BC third, and Canadian products fourth.
“When we’re helping these businesses grow, and creating this relationship, PG will become a place where all of these things are available,” Jeni says. She’s working on a new location, PlayGrounds Bistro, in the Prestige Treasure Cove Hotel lobby, which will have its grand opening at the end of October. She’s excited that the hotel wanted to keep this opportunity local too. Beyond food, she also works with other local businesses where she can, like Emily Jane Photography and Theory Hardware.
Trench Brewing & Distilling
I also connected with Bailey Hoefels, one of the founders of Trench Brewing, to get their thoughts on all things local. Trench works with other local businesses as much as possible: from using meats from Birch and Boar, sauerkraut from Hope Farm Organics, and pastries and sandwiches from PlayGrounds Café, to partnering with businesses like Theory Hardware, Sweet Sassy Savoury, and Top Drawer Yarn Studio for special events, they give props to other locals because they appreciate the support they are getting too!
“We have had lots of customers come in and say, ‘You came highly recommended by the last place we visited!’ and we try to do the same. We couldn’t have done it without this community and we appreciate it!” says Bailey.
Once their still is up and running, they’ll be keeping this local too – their craft distillery license means they are committed to using only BC based ingredients. They’re even into reducing waste: “The spent grain from our brews goes to a local pig farmer to use as feed for his piggies,” Bailey says.
Food and drink is only one example of keeping things local. I know this personally, from my own business (Live Love North Apparel), where I try to source product as locally as I can (e.g. Canadian made bamboo tanks and sweatshirts, decals made by PG’s SignTek, etc.). And I’ve been humbled to accept the support of other small businesses in Prince George who help to support my work (like PlayGrounds, who has hosted several of my pop-up markets, and Madison Ave Fashions who carries a wide selection of my brand). So, tell us: what other Prince George businesses do you want to give a shout out to for supporting local? Comment below, or post/tweet! Find me on Insta at @jessicaleequinn!