Tyee News

Contest: Love Letters to Local Biz Pouring In

Your valentines are, well, gushing. Write one now and enter for $2,000 in prizes.

By Michelle Hoar 14 Feb 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Michelle Hoar is the Director of Publishing and Advertising at The Tyee.

Two days ago we launched a 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. And wow, do Tyee readers ever feel passion for their neighbourhood shops and services!

We received over 120 letters in just the first day and half. Some themes were evident: food businesses were highest on the list, and people definitely loved businesses as much for their friendly, warm staff as for their quality products or services. The businesses on the receiving end of this love clearly aren't just places where people spend their money: they're a vital part of the fabric of people's lives, and profoundly impact their communities.

(If you're ready to pen one or more love letters, and get into 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.

Below is just a sampling of the letters you're sending, exactly as we received them, from as close as Vancouver's Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood, all the way to Victoria, Comox, Uclulet, Vernon, even Winnipeg. To see a list of all the love letters so far, go here.

Greater Vancouver area love

"Rocky's Meats, Burnaby. This store has been serving the neighbourhood since the '60s. I have been shopping there for a quarter century. One day when I forgot my wallet, the previous owner took $100 out of the till and told me to go finish my shopping, and repay him next week. The current owner was a coach in the minor hockey association for many years. The quality of the product is always excellent, too, and I can walk to the store from my home. That, in a nutshell, is why I patronize local businesses as much as I possibly can."

"Thomas Haas, North Vancouver It was my daughters birthday and although she had school that day we wanted to celebrate with her. Her request? That we go to Thomas Haas for breakfast. So Daddy went to work late and she enjoyed her double baked almond croissant and hot chocolate. We will always support a business where the owner isn't above taking customer orders when it gets busy. The free "seconds" of chocolate that are often available don't hurt either :)"

"I love the Rio Theatre on Broadway in Vancouver. I love them because I love the cinema. It creates a nostalgic feeling of contentment that no other medium can satisfy for me. I've always been more of a fan of repertoire theatres, finding the abrasiveness of multiplexes off-putting at best, a nightmare of commercialism at worst. The Rio is an oasis, where the escape of watching a film begins the moment I walk in the front doors. With the diversity of events, screenings of new movies that include audience participation and a classic golden age of hollywood atmosphere, I can't imagine a better place to spend an evening that enlivens the cinephile in me. And having spent time in Europe, where I am treated as an adult and allowed to drink beer while watching a movie, the Rio fulfills that aspect for me as well. There's no better balance in my mind than being treated as a grownup while feeling as giddy as a youngster being out late for a midnight show, surrounded by joyful and like minded people and elegant furnishings. I used to dream of opening a movie theatre, I always knew just what it would look like. The first time I walked into the Rio I was ecstatic, because it was all of my best dreams come true. Thanks Rio Theatre, I love you."

"I love Champlain Video, a movie rental store in Champlain Heights, Vancouver. They have a great selection of movies including art and foreign. They also have ALAN, the most amazing video store employee ever, and the reason that the business is still around in the age of Netflix. He knows everyone's name, movie preferences and his elocution is reminiscent of a CBC announcer--warm, yet precise. He even has a facebook fan page that someone started in the neighborhood. He is a true neighborhood icon! Way to go Champlain Video and ALAN!"

"'Tell Laura I Love Her.' In my quaint little "city by the sea" White Rock there is a business that is business owner that has created a template for how to run a successful business. I am speaking of LAURA CORNALE the owner and operator of Laura's Coffee Corner in the 5 Corners District of White Rock. A couple of years back Laura moved to White Rock. Having service industry experience she thought she would possibly open a coffee shop. Just her luck an existing shop was going out of business. In very short order Laura turned the fortunes of the failing coffee shop into the most popular eatery in White Rock. I like to describe her restaurant as a micro version of the bar Cheers "...where everyone knows your name." As I have coffee a couple of times at least at Laura's I constantly marvel how she can remember everyone's names and little personal traits of each of her customers. from the time she opens in the morning until closing time in the late afternoon, as adjacent business owners feel like the Maytag repairman, Laura and her staff are ensuring everyone feels special at Laura's Coffee Corner. Laura also is involved with raising funds for the local food bank, displaying local artists work and assisting in a wide variety of community event fundraisers. If only we have more Lauras. If only. Thank you for listening. If I am not chosen at the very least tell everyone about this wonderful dining experience is White Rock, British Columbia. 'Where you can vacation and be home the same day.'"

"I love East Village Bakery (Vancouver, Hastings-Sunrise). They have amazing gluten-free products, and their staff are super friendly."

"To my dearest Three Bags Full, You have always been my first true wool store, and you know what they say about firsts... Like many fellow knitters that call Vancouver home, I am inspired simply by being close to the gorgeous fibres and colors that line your walls and fill your baskets. The expertise of your wonderful staff has saved me time and again and I there's not a store in the city I feel more comfortable to visit. And so in sum, I love you Three Bags Full and Happy Valentines Day!"

"Well moving was a small nightmare, and we went through everything you could imagine – so we REALLY want to spotlight the gang at: P Murray in North Vancouver - To use my favourite word, they were Awesomesauce – they went over and above and were so friendly in a sea of contractors - Irish to boot – go team!"

"Matteo's Gelato in Port Coquitlam is a gem within our city. The gelato is amazing and better than any I found in Europe. Its fresh and flavourful and a TOTAL treat, and made in house with TLC. The coffee is also wonderful and the food is good. Best of all the owner is the nicest guy on the planet, always generous and friendly and engaging. We are so lucky to have Matteo's in our community!"

"Dear: Big Lou's In Vancouver Why I love you: For providing locally sourced, quality meats and bones that make for delicious pho. And although your banh mi is not exactly authentic, it is delicious. Thank you!"

"To my beloved Brick & Mortar Living (New West), Love you for: 1) Being the cutest family run biz. 2) Supporting local artists. 3) Being so involved in your community. 4) Serving baked goods in your store from time to time 5) Giving back at Christmas time 6) Having the most visually inspiring Facebook page 7) Your lovable personality Ok I'm going to stop now. I could really go on forever."

"Earnest Ice Cream, Vancouver BC. What can I say? The peanut butter chocolate chip is what dreams are made of. If you want a new flavour, just ask, they will make you one! Simply the best."

"Dear Guanaco Salvadoran Cuisine streetcart, Before you rolled into Vancouver, my lunch hours were so sad. My weeks mapped out as sushi, pizza, salad, then sushi again. When you made your home at Robson and Seymour, and I tried your cheese&beans pupusas for the first time, I finally found out what I was missing. Thank you for your friendly smiles, the complimentary hot chocolate and the amazing food. I look forward to our next rendez-vous."

"Dear Finch's Tea & Coffee House (Vancouver BC) Whenever I am sad or blue or hungry and it's lunch time so a nice stiff drink may not be appropriate my mind begins to wander to you. First of all, I can order over the phone so while I do enjoy the cozy embrace of your crowded shoppe, I don't have to wait for eternity in line. Secondly, your staff is incredibly good looking (and I'm not just saying that) so I could judge a book by the cover but it wouldn't be necessary because they're friendly and pleasant. Last, and definitely not the least, I could write a sonnet to those sandwiches you're making. Mostly the prosciutto baguette, my heart calls for thee. Now I'm going to have to call and order 2 (it'll be our little secret)."

Blooming love elsewhere in BC

"Almost every week I go to Talewind Books in Sechelt to browse the shelves. As a reader, I am always looking for new titles as well as old ones I've missed. I buy books as gifts -- most people don't need more stuff but a book is a pleasure that can be passed along. And as writer, I am grateful that Bev Shaw, the owner of Talewind Books, supports the local literary community by stocking my books (and those of my fellow writers), suggesting them to likely customers, coming to book launches to sell books and to encourage audience members to buy them and have them signed. It can't be easy. The media is full of news of collapsing publishing empires, the end of books, and the proliferation of gadgets to replace them in our lives. Yet Bev goes on stocking her bright store, hiring local people to work for her, buying advertising in local papers, donating to local causes. How lucky we are on the Sunshine Coast!"

"Dear Comox Long Bar & Grill, Thanks for having such fabulous staff, such unlucky but fun Keno and awesome food/drink specials on Mondays and Thursday nights. You're stumbling distance from my abode, a great place to watch local hockey and pool games and an unpretentious paradise where I can wear my post-Dodgeball grubs or worn out jeans. Oh, and your burgers are great."

"Dear Pina Styles in Uclulet BC, Thank you for being a screen printing inspiration. Your soft bamboo and organic cotton shirts are staples in my wetcoast closet. I love your anchors and day of the dead mermaid pirates prints. I also love how such a creative, sustainable clothing shop can survive in a small town like Ukee. You are one of my 'must-stops' whenever I make the trek to Vancouver Isle's westcoast."

"Profiles Pictures and Framing, Victoria Deb you are SO helpful. Even for occasional clients like myself your work is wonderful. My office wall is beautified by your work! Will soon be in with four Robert Bateman prints to be framed :)"

"FISHER'S HARDWARE, Vernon B.C. a family run hardware business started in 1935 still in the same location and still delivering high standard customer service in the Okanagan Valley. They are affiliated with Home Hardware and also carry items you have been "looking for everywhere else!" It's a wonderful shopping experience from the moment you enter the parking lot! They serve building contractors with the same respect as Mr. Joe homeowner. I love that store."

"Munro's Books Victoria I love the customer service I get when I shop with you. I also love the staff - paid living wages - I see the same folks year after year."

"My all time favourite local business is Smoking Lily, based in Victoria. I love absolutely everything they do. We live on Salt Spring Island, but visit Smoking Lily every time we find ourselves in downtown Victoria. I have shopped many times at the tiny store on Johnson Street with my family standing outside the windows, waiting patiently for me. When my kids burst into the store, the sales people are always happy to talk to my girls about the things on display. Once The Milkman's Daughter opened up, my husband started to suggest we stop by there. On one visit he surprised me by walking in and deciding within five minutes that the jellyfish duvet was just what we needed for our bedroom. I feel like the clothes they make are designed just for me, and love the quirky combinations they come up with for their prints. Their work inspires my art, and I know that every visit will be a good one. The people who work at Smoking Lily are the best! I have a collection of skirts from SL, and my favourite is one that I bought more than ten years ago. It comes with a great story that I love to tell whenever anyone comments on the skirt (which they continue to do even after ten years). One day I would like to write a book about how much I love Smoking Lily. Everyone should shop there."

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

What are you waiting for? Write your own now, share your love, and enter to win one of 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.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!  [Tyee]

Read more: Local Economy

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