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Contest: Love Letters Keep on Gushing

Pen your homage to a favourite local biz before March 4 to win $2,000 in prizes.

By Michelle Hoar, 21 Feb 2013, TheTyee.ca

Local biz love letter contest

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We're less than two weeks into our Valentine's-themed contest with a twist. Instead of asking you to tell us your stories of traditional romance (that certainly gets enough play each Feb. 14), we asked you to write love letters to your favourite local businesses. We're pretty floored by the response: there is a lot of love out there for independent businesses.

We've received 325 love letters so far (check them all out here.)

Some themes persist: You like good food (tacos, bacon, seafood, chocolate, ice cream, coffee, sushi and donuts really get your hearts pounding). Three neighbourhoods in Vancouver seem to pop up a lot: Hastings Sunrise, Main Street, and Commercial. You also like books and wool. Lastly, it's all about the people, the atmosphere, the friendly service, and obvious connections with other local suppliers. These businesses are a part of your life, not just a part of your spending.

If you're ready to pen one or more love letters, and be in the running for almost $2,000 worth of great prizes from Ocean Village Resort, Vancity, Greens Local & Organic Market, Modo the Car Co-op, Nicole Bridger, Hip Baby, Aphrodite's Café, and Rooted Nutrition, get going here.

Aim high with that Cupid's arrow. Maybe even wax poetic, like this "Ode to Stock Up" in Kerrisdale, Vancouver:

"When the day is grey and dreary, And I'm feeling kind of weary, There's a place with scones and coffee just for me! They've got breakfast, soup, and supper. That'll give your soul an 'upper' And the smiles that they give out are all free! Feel life's passing you by? The cure's their Shepherd's Pie! It's sure to make your stomach laugh and sing. I've heard foodies from New York fly in just for the pulled Pork, The folks from Yonkers just go bonkers for that thing! Stock Up even serves you beer. That's enough to make me cheer! Their famous Christmas Turkey dinner is to die for! You can keep your fancy shmancy, Who needs @#?!! Gordon Ramsey! We have Stock Up. Who could ask for anything more?"

Here is just a small sample of the many more letters pouring in:

Ocean Village Resort, Tofino (six letters.)

"My favorite place in the whole world is Ocean Village Resort in Tofino................ I can run on the beach with my eyes closed and feel the whole other world disappear.......... We have been coming to this paradise for years......at least 30, and now our children are following the tradition..... No TV, no Phone...........PURE BLISS......."

Bandidas Taqueria, Vancouver (five letters.)

"That moment when a vegetarian Mexican place opens a stone's throw from your office -- fabulous! Bandidas Taqueria in Vancouver deserves to be recognized not only for their excellent service and tasty offerings, including the you-can't-go-wrong Ronny Russell, but also for their active commitment to sustainability -- buying local & organic whenever possible, using compostable packing, and even recycling their furniture. A few years ago, I was shooting a Public Service Announcement down the Drive and ordered in dinner for the crew. Piping hot burritos and tacos appeared soon after via pedal power -- typical Bandidas-style. Another time during the early years, I ordered take-out for myself and several colleagues and was told simply to bring the plates and cutlery back when we were done. Bandidas is a gathering space for community, a supporter of local artists, and a huge contributor to local charities, including the Amnesty International Taste for Justice, supporting programs to end violence against women. I LOVE that I can count on Bandidas for feeding our hungry cyclists at the annual Canada Africa Partnership on AIDS bike-a-thon. Jackie & Aiyana are leaders in ensuring that the term 'sustainability' isn't just lip service and that our local economy remains resilient in turbulent times. Now I'm hungry!"

Modo the Car Co-Op, Greater Vancouver (four letters).

"Dear Modo Car Coop lady, You lend me a car that goes beep beep, I don't have to use my little feet. Even when there's rain and sleet, I use it to buy veggies and meat When I call to reserve You're voice is so sweet You say 'owning a car has become obsolete!' Oh Modo car lady, I love you deep I will tell the whole world when I tweet You're a big part of my life, I think you're neat With the money I save I'll be like Wall Street! One day I will call you and I will be very discreet I'll say, 'hey Modo car lady, can we meet in the backseat?'"

Vancity Credit Union, Greater Vancouver/Squamish/Victoria (three letters).

"I would like to express my admiration for Vancity (the sponsors of this program and so many more amazing things in BC). Their leadership in the community is awe-inspiring. Through my work, I often connect in with other financial organizations about their sustainability work, and I'm typically left reflecting that Vancity is about 5-7 years ahead of everyone else in the field. Kudos for daring to be on the 'cutting edge' and showing how things can be done."

Donald's Market, various Greater Vancouver locations (three letters).

"Donald's Grocery store, especially the one at Hastings in Vancouver. They have the big box stores beat hands down. The aisles are full of fresh, whole foods that cater to the diverse and multicultural neighbourhood. Frozen dim sum, Italian panettone, gai lan, organic produce, whatever hemp seeds are, local suppliers, even a tea store. I don't know how they pack every ingredient into a store with such a small footprint, but shopping there is a pleasure. And if you meet Carmen at the checkout, she literally knows thousands of names."

Aphrodite's Café and Pie Shop, Vancouver (three letters).

"Aphrodite's Cafe! A lovely gal named Carly Rae Jepsen once took me to your cafe to try your delicious pie. I was hooked, we went often. Then she became a super star. You must have put something magical in your pie! Even if you didn't, it's fantastic. And what's just as fantastic as your pie are the people that serve it every day. Great staff, great food and drinks, and a good vibe. Couldn't ask for more in life. Thanks for being a great home-grown Vancouver spot."

Rio Theatre, Vancouver (three letters).

"Dear Rio Theatre, I love you because you let me scream absurdities in a movie theatre. I love you because you let me watch cult classics on the silver screen. I love you because you encourage me to do both at the same time while in costume in East Van."

Munro's Books, Victoria (three letters).

"Munro's Books in Victoria, for sure. I love them first because the architecture of their building is beautiful, then because of their amazing front door, and once you enter the building, it's just what a book store should be, and of course their selection of books, cards, etc is wonderful, but mostly because their staff is always friendly and invitiing and knowledgeable and help me chose the perfect books. (And I'm sure their staff would collectively cringe at my run-on sentence.)"

Smoking Lily, Vancouver and Victoria (three letters).

"Smoking Lily, Vancouver and Victoria I love smoking lily because they are beautiful and delighful and always changing. I have been wearing their clothes since they opened. They create a friendly and welcoming shop, and they are always teaming with other small, local businesses in order to make sweet and special treats. Thank you Smoking Lily for being great!"

Choices Markets, Various Vancouver locations (three letters).

"Cambie Village Choices, my favourite food store. What's special is the way the staff treat their customers, personal and with a sense of humour. Doug, the manager, is a character and if you are lucky you may catch him singing in one of the aisles on one of his good days lol. The store is a bit crowded now and that makes it fun bumping into each other or meeting new friends. They are expanding to offer more space and products. As well, I find good deals on groceries. They often have sidewalk barbecues to raise money for charity and maybe another tune from Doug:)"

Black Rook Bakehouse, Vancouver (two letters).

"Dearest Black Rook Bakehouse, Thanks for always making us feel welcomed and taking the time out to chat for a moment. Your warm & welcoming environment has been home to many of our VEV meetings. Keep on doing what you do. *PS please make something gluten free and I will love you even more! Signed, Your Vancouver East Village customer, Hastings Sunrise resident, RZ."

Red Barn Markets, Victoria area (two letters).

"Oh, how I love the Red Barn Markets of Victoria. You have not truly eaten bacon until you have tried their double-smoked bacon. It is a melt in your mouth confection. I also love the fine selection of affordable fruits and vegetables, mostly local. Red Barn Market is our one stop shop for loacl meats, veggies and other fine products."

$2000 IN PRIZES TO WIN FROM LOCAL BUSINESSES!

And all you have to do is pen a brief love letter here.

GRAND PRIZES

Ocean Village Resort: $850 'Total Tofino Experience.' Three nights in a studio cabin, surf rentals, and whale watching.

Vancity: $500 Vancity Visa* Gift Card. Make an impact by spending it locally!

OTHER GREAT PRIZES FROM: Greens Organic & Natural Market, Modo Carsharing Co-Op, Nicole Bridger, Hip Baby, Aphrodite's Café & Pie Shop, and Rooted Nutrition.

Ready to show your favourite business(es) some love? Get going here.

Contest ends Monday, March 4.

Matteo's Gelato, Port Coquitlam (two letters).

"Matteo's Gellato in Port Coquitlam. Matt, the owner, makes an astonishing variety of Gellato, even though I always seem to have chocolate (deep, dark, deadly good) and blood orange. He also makes good coffee (free refills) and panini and soup at lunch. Summer evenings, sitting outside, across from the courthouse, are splendid. Matteo's is a precious, delicious presence in PoCo. Plus, he gives your dog a biscuit."

Wheelhouse Seafoods, Vancouver (two letters).

"I love the Wheelhouse Fish store on Hastings because a/ they have great quality seafood b/they bring in the most amazing eggs ever c/ I have a soft spot for businesses that know my name!"

Congee Noodle House, Vancouver (two letters).

"Dear Congee Noodle House on Main and Broadway, You've been a bastion of fantastic congee since I was a small child growing up in Vancouver. I remember sitting in a booster seat eagerly awaiting your pots of congee to be placed on the table, and poured into bowls for all of us to have. Growing up I have made an effort to continually suggest and go to your restaurant on a regular basis. Since travelling abroad I have been left a decent traditional Chinese meal that your restaurant always brings. Your quality has stayed the same since I have left, and I will continue to support you. A belated Happy New Year, and a Happy Valentines Day to you."

Cocoa Nymph, Vancouver (two letters).

"Dear Cocoa Nymph What can I say but! Your chocolate is truly amazing, in particular your Salted Caramel chocolate bar. Aren't we lucky to have you here, and in multiple locations now! Thanks for bringing such sweetness to the city with innovative recipes and a light touch on the sugar."

JJ Bean, Vancouver (two letters).

"I love my beautiful JJBean's, down on Powell St and Victoria in East Vancouver. I love the coffee and tea, I love the sandwiches and great big beautiful muffins, and I love the staff. Strangely, some of the same baristas have been there for years and they are just as sweet, prompt and friendly as ever. I love the viewing window that lets me watch the big ol' coffee roaster do its magical slow-turning swooning fragrant thing. I love JJBean's folks."

SPUD (Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery), Vancouver (two letters).

"Dearest SPUD (Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery of Vancouver), You make my weekly grocery shopping experience a delight! Thanks to your online ordering system and dedicated delivery people, I endure fewer line ups at the till, less hassles of lugging heavy bags home in the rain, and can do my shopping from home without having to play dodge cart with the harried hoardes during the after work grocery shopping frenzy. I love how you wooed me with free samples, and how my love for you bloomed after sampling your delicious local produce, and trying out your recipe suggestions. The fact you live up to your satisfaction guarantee only made me fall for you harder. I'm so glad you're in my life! I love you truly, madly and locally."

Cartem's Donuts, Vancouver (two letters).

"They have amazing heart in what they do and the donuts they make. Everything is local, and the owner, Jordan, even so kindly went to visit my engineering office nearby with a little spiel about the importance of supporting the local economy. Plus, the donuts are amaaaaaaaaaaazing. Latest love = Earl Grey Donut. Mmmmmmmm~ <3"

Nice Shoes, Vancouver (two letters).

"Nice Shoes in Vancouver. Slightly out of the way on Fraser but an absolute must-visit for vegan shoe-lovers. Their selection is amazing and the owners are fantastic. I've never been much of a shoe-shopper but I now head over there anytime I'm in need. Bought a pair of incredible trail shoes this year and wish I'd bought a second as a back-up!! A one-off, local, vegan business!! Let's support them and all the rest who are trying so hard to make a difference!!"

Earnest Ice Cream, Vancouver (two letters).

"Earnest Ice Cream, Vancouver. Glass jars, delicious flavors and a silver ice cream cart... what's not to love?"

Baad Anna's, Vancouver (two letters).

"Why I love them: Baaad Anna's is a critical part of the current vibrant community in Hastings Sunrise (East Village), and is owned and run by Anna Hunter who is also a resident of the community. Hastings Sunrise has seen so many changes in the last 7-10 years, changes which are continuing at a lightening fast pace. Baaad Anna's is a place where lovers of yarn and community can come together to yes, buy yarn, but also to contribute to the community through community fundraisers that they host community fundraisers and an annual knit-a-thon to provide warm hats for those less fortunate. Anna and her staff are always eager to help customers, to chat about the neighbourhood and to respond to community needs. I adore this shop, its owner and staff for all that they bring to our neighbourhood."

Three Bags Full, Vancouver (two letters).

"Dear Three Bags Full, I love your excellent yarn shop on Main Street in Vancouver. You always have the most stunning colours and yarns. Your buttons are fabulous, your shawl pins are lovely. I particularly love your knitting needles, ai swoon over your circulars. But merchandise aside, it's the staff that make TBF really special. Charming, knowledgable and patient... Always a treat to talk to, especially Maiyu! Thanks Three Bags Full."

Lunapads, Vancouver (two letters).

"These gals have it all -- a great product, a great cause, and a truly charitable fund that supports pads for girls and women in Africa."

East of Main, Vancouver (two letters).

"East of Main Cafe in Vancouver's China Town. We went there with a work group for a birthday celebration. It's a lovely little spot with excellent food and even better service. I love their connection to community groups and recently heard of the story with patrons leaving love notes in the furniture. What a positive story!"

East Van Food Co-Op, Vancouver (two letters).

"Dear East Van Food Co-op on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, I love that you're a community business. I love walking through your aisles and seeing all the organic and local food items. Thank you for helping me stay within my budget and get tasty, fresh, organic and local food and products. I just wished that I lived closer. Ours is a little bit of a long-distance relationship, but you're worth it. Love, a member."

Quest Non Profit Grocery Store, Vancouver (Powell Street location).

"Love to you for bringing organic and whole food to the poor folk. Vancouver needs more of your type of enterprise. Love to you for saving yuppie food from the trash heap and delivering it to families, singles and the working poor. Love to you for demonstrating a better way in our topsy turvy city."

"Dear Mid-Century Modern HOME you're one of my most treasured shops! I love all that you offer. You're one of the few authentic Mid Century furniture stores around. Your owner is obviously passionate about you as she pours her heart and soul into making you one of the best places to shop for period decor. Thank you for being a treasure in downtown New West. I love u."

"Dear Windsor Meats, Main & King Ed, Vancouver, I miss your chicken wings. I miss your bacon. I really miss your butchers. Never did they show a sign of impatience when I inevitably fumbled with my wallet, dropping my grocery bags. Always did they smile and deliver prompt, knowledgeable service. I wish you delivered...out-of-province. Wait, do you? I'll be back soon, and the wait to see you again will be over. Until then, I'll just remember that night I fried up your bacon for a midnight snack, and woke everyone up in the house. Your bacon is that good."

"Saigon Noodle House, you are true, and we really really, love, love you. Courtenay wouldn't be the same, with pho by any other name... Lee is ready with a smile, even if it's been a while, The food is just so good and tasty, especially as it's quick and hasty.. For the best Vietnamese food on the island, go to Saigon Noodle House, Courtenay!!"

"River City Coffee, Powell River, I LOVE YOU! Why do I love you? Well, not as would be politically correct, because you are a home grown, organic, environmentally conscious business (though you are!). But for the warm, luxurious experience of being in your establishment with friends, with myself, or even just popping in for a coffee on the run. You see, though 'cafe culture' has become quite the trend, I love it for the 'on a break' lift it gives my spirits, for the great conversations and serendipitous encounters I've experienced under your roof, for the mouth watering aroma of roasting coffee and baking delicacies, not to speak of the welcoming and friendly staff. And, finally, I love it because it is where I first glimpsed the possibility of falling for my sweetheart. River City Coffee, how could I not love you? (Oh yeah, and the coffee rocks too!)"

"I love Koffi in Victoria because they have delicious coffee and food. They are also so great at developing community in the way that they support other local businesses by using local suppliers such as Patisserie Daniel and Origins bakery, and how they are contributing so much to the Haultain neighbourhood. Thanks Koffi, I love you!"

Let's Knit Yarn Shop. "I love this store because it is small, independently owned and they ladies that work there are so darn helpful! They will sit down and knit with you to help you along your pattern! I am so grateful they opened shop in my tiny little Qualicum Beach town!!"

"To Krista and her staff at Sangha Bean in Revelstoke. Love you because you let the guys sit all morning on one cup of terrific coffee, because you don't try to do it all, because you don't use paper cups even though I hate drinking out of a mason jar, and because you open all day long."

"Oh Red Fish Blue Fish. You are my favourite shipping container turned seafood eatery in Victoria! Your spicy tacones make my mouth water, and your fish and chips make my taste buds dance. I will wait in long line-ups just to experience you again, and again, and again."

"Festival Cinemas, Vancouver, in a time where the independent movie theatre is nearly extinct. I love you because the Ridge closed with a fabulous bang, not a whimper (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Sing Along with The Sound of Music, etc.), because the 5th Avenue posts movie reveiws on the wall, and instead of big and loud million dollar ads foisted on you pre-screening, you get to see marketing of local businesses, not-for-profits, and recent Emily Carr grads. I love you because The Park screens independent films, operas, and all sorts of stuff that will never have 'blockbuster' associated with them. I love you because I like going to the movies when it looks like Festival Cinemas."

The fruit tree and sharing project in Richmond. "This wonderful farm is run by amazing staff and volunteers and they donate their fresh produce to the food bank. It is literally unknown and needs our support. Go and visit to understand the peaceful atmosphere and the hard work that goes on."

"I LOVE my local Abbotsford (Otter Farm & Home) Co-Op. Great staff, (particularly knowledgeable and friendly at the pharmacy), I can pick up fresh veggies and fruits on my way home from work as it's just a couple blocks from my house --- flowers for special occasions --- snacks/treats for the kids --- the quality is great and so are the prices. Working at a co-operative credit union, I appreciate co-operative values, and try to buy and invest local whenever possible. GO TO THIS STORE!"

"I love books but there are fewer and fewer non-big-box options these days. Happily, Vancouver has a few locations of Pulp Fiction to choose from and they're a must-visit. I could spend hours going through their shelves!! Skip the big boys and head down to these guys. Used or new, they've got great pickin's!!!"

"Dream in Gastown (Vancouver) is celebrating their 20th year in business, a huge milestone for a small business and one worthy of note. Dream was fostering a community of local fashion designers in the Lower Mainland long before it was trendy, and remains committed to building community and capacity for local up and coming designers. Plus: awesome stuff!"

"Our Community Bikes and Pedal Depot: I love cycling around the city (Vancouver), it makes me relax, feel energized and its great for the environment. I love how Our Community Bikes staff takes time and patience to help you work on your bike or provide recommendation on bikes, or just general chit chat. Its a great place to learn how to maintain your bike so you can whiz around the city with it. Its a great community they have established and I wish its sucess in the future :)"

Shinobi Sushi in Maple Ridge. "My sister and I are regulars and we always have a warm welcome with the owner often popping by our table to chat and say hi to any kids. Food is delicious - best in Maple Ridge, and a 'glass' of wine is often more like half a bottle :)"

Jan's on the Beach, White Rock. "I love this new restaurant located on Marine Drive in White Rock. It is run by Jan, the chef and her husband. It is an open style kitchen where you can talk freely to the chef while she is cooking your meal. Jan uses fresh local ingredients and her husband is on hand to play music on the weekends and help out. Jan's serves delicious food made from scratch."

"The Regional Assembly of Text (Main Street, Vancouver) is awesome for bringing strangers together to drink tea (complementary) and type letters (typewriters and stationary provided). What a lovely way to strike up a conversation with a neighbour. Their shop focuses on hand made and locally created, and it is a delight. Thank you Assembly of Text for fostering delight in our community."

Phew... And that was just a fraction of what you'll find here.

That's just a trickle of the love for local business gushing our way these days. What are you waiting for? Write your own now, share your love, and enter to win one of the eight great prizes on offer.

Who is putting on this contest?

The Tyee, along with our Live Local, Buy Local, partners LOCO BC and Vancity.

Why are we doing this? 

Because The Tyee, LOCO BC, and Vancity all believe that locally owned, independent businesses are the engine that drives a resilient, creative economy. And we know that building the kind of business that customers come to trust and love is no easy task. So let's show the great ones in our communities some love, and let them know how they impact our lives.

What are the prizes?

A "total Tofino experience" at Ocean Village Resort: three nights in a studio beachfront cabin, surf rentals, and whale watching ($850 value).

A $500 Vancity Visa* Gift Card: Spend it locally and increase your impact!

Another $600 in prizes from Greens Organic & Natural Market, Modo Carsharing Co-Op, Nicole Bridger, Hip Baby, Aphrodite's Café & Pie Shop, and Rooted Nutrition.

Get more prize details here.

Alright, off you go. Share your love!  [Tyee]

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