Tyee News

Contest: Last Chance to Pen a Local Biz Love Letter

Read latest homegrown biz homages here. Write yours before March 6. $2,000 in prizes!

By Michelle Hoar 4 Mar 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Michelle Hoar is director of publishing and advertising at The Tyee.

Just before Valentine's Day we launched a special contest. Instead of asking you to tell us your stories of traditional romance, we asked you to write love letters to your favourite local businesses. And boy, are you responding! On Saturday, we were at 510 letters (check them all out here). Can we make it to 600 in the last two three days of the contest? I think we can.

Have you taken a few minutes to write yours? You might want to pause what you're doing and consider these 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 gift packages and gift certificates from Greens Organic & Natural Market, Modo Carsharing Co-Op, Nicole Bridger, Hip Baby, Aphrodite's Café & Pie Shop and Rooted Nutrition.

For full contest details, and to enter, click here.

Now, don't freeze up and worry that your love letter won't stack up. Winners will be drawn randomly -- it's not a writing contest. And don't blank trying to pick just one business to love up: you can write up to five letters, and get five entries. So, let your love loose, and get going here.

Clear themes persist

We guess what they say about the stomach being the path to the heart is true. Well over half of your letters are about food businesses: restaurants, grocery stores, gourmet food vendors and even particular farms are getting many letters. And a small handful of businesses are really getting a serious volume of letters (Bandidas Taqueria, Aphrodite's Café & Pie Shop, Choices Markets and Donald's Markets, you're sure doing something right.)

Other sectors getting a lot of amorous missives: bookstores, wool shops and local designers.

These are not just businesses

Clearly, the recipients of your love are more than just places where you buy the things you need. They're places that make you happy, make you feel welcome, noticed and valued. (That classic song from Sesame Street just popped into my head... "These are the people in your neighbourhood...." Sorry, now it's in yours too.)

Now for some letters

So hard to choose, and so many to choose from. But here's a sampling:

"Oh Tenth & Proper, you make me feel so good!
In sizes that fit my curvy womanhood.

"To visit your store, I drive to Point Grey.
My troubles and fears are melted away.

"I'm happy to shop and stay for a while
No pressure sales, just kindness and a smile.

"I like to buy local and independent it's true
Of all the shops in Vancouver, this love letter's for you."

"Gain Wah -- 218 Keefer Street, Vancouver. To Andrew, Tracey and Ming from Gain Wah: I love Gain Wah because it is the closest I can come to eating at home, while leaving home. Because you have fed me, my friends, my family and even the sick dog I was looking out for, for years. Because Andrew you made me two trays of Mango Pudding for Chanukah in exchange for latkes, because Ming you give me losenges when I have a sore throat, and Tracey because you teach me Cantonese. I love Gain Wah because it is still one of the few places left in Chinatown where so many people feel welcome, and because the food is good."

"I had been searching high and low for a place that sold Backyard Beans, a fab coffee roaster from Summerland (that I also love). I was walking down Broadway one sunny day and lo, there were my beans! What a happy camper I was. Turns out the delightful spot in which I found my favourite beans was Larch Grocery (crn Larch and Broadway, Vancouver). I'm not sure if the owner has changed the name but -- she took over the store last year and has created a haven of local and tasty produce and products. I love popping down there on a Sunday afternoon to gather fresh veggies and create something tasty for dinner. Or grabbing a Pie Hole if I'm feeling decadent (oh and they are good) and just a little bit lazy. This little store has everything -- local, tasty, fun, and fresh. Thanks for the opportunity to share the love!"

"TO: Karmavore Vegan Store IN: New Westminster WHY I LOVE YOU: For having and promoting a wide-range of awesome animal-free/vegan products. For being a one-of-a-kind, much-needed business in Metro Vancouver. For being an important part of the vegan community and for a resource for those who are interested in veganism. For being more than just a store, by participating in fundraisers and other events. For being located outside of the city of Vancouver; being accessible for all residents of Metro Vancouver. And most of all, for caring about animals. Thank you so much!!!"

"DoggyDo Kennel, Courtenay, B.C. We used to hate dropping our dogs off at boarding kennels when we left town for a few days. They were always so nervous and scared when we dropped them off and so glad when we picked them up afterwards. Totally different now. When we take them to DoggyDo they're wildly excited from the moment we leave home to drop them off. Don't know how they know where they're going but they do. When there they get to run and play freely with other dogs in the large paddocks. Bev and her staff are incrediby kind and appreciative of our pets' needs. When we pick them up they are reluctant to leave. Bev also posts dozens of photos daily on Facebook of the dogs at play and also e-mails reports of the dogs' daily activities. Doesn't get any better. Great facility, great people."

"Gino's Restaurant in New Westminster. They have treated my son like he is family since the very first time he entered the place. They have given him cupcakes on his birthday, hugs and kisses. It's priceless to have your child be part of the fabric of a neighborhood!"

"I love Hernandez Cocina in Victoria! They are locally owned, family run, and have the best food! Ingredients are fresh and everything is made in front of your eyes. The staff are always welcoming. Nothing beats the price point either, I don't think they've raised their prices in years. Even if they did, I'd keep going. It's my mission to make all my friends Hernandez converts!"

"I love the Roasted Grape Cafe in Abbotsford, B.C. They really are the truly unique experience in a city over filled with generic chain restaurants. Sources locally grown partners for their food and wine, a truly great meeting place for a social snack and drink."

"KJM Country Gardens, Vancouver B.C. KJM Country Gardens is everything I want and love about small local businesses. It's family owned and operated by a mother and son team. They and their staff clearly know and love plants, and it shines through in the way that they tend to their products, and the wisdom they are able to share with customers. They are involved in their community, hosting all sorts of family-friendly holiday events. And they care about the environment around them. Laurie and Jordan and team -- you are doing an amazing job. And I can't wait to come down there and stock up on new plants for the spring."

"Dear Bikram's Commercial Drive (Vancouver): I will be the first to acknowledge that our relationship is a complicated one. Some days I love you. I love the way you have painted the walls of your space, the friendly staff you hire to welcome me at the door, your clean facilities, the beautiful light through the windows. Some days I feel like you might be saving my life, giving me pause, giving me the gift of conviction and stamina. Other days I actually never want to see you again. But I always come back for more. Thanks for making me a stronger person."

"In Courtenay you must always know,
that Edible Island is the place to go
if you need some whole food stash,
with good value for your hard-earned cash.

"They are always kind and friendly,
helpful, well-stocked and num-num-nummy,
It should be your happy place,
Because there you'll meet a happy face!"

"Our Town Cafe, I love you. You are the living room of Mount Pleasant, welcoming any and all to come in out of the rain. Your baristas are friendly, not forced, and make the best London Fog in Vancouver. You offer a relaxed space to enjoy on my own or with friends day or night. Can I call you My Town?"

"Bird On A Wire Creations, 2535 Main Street, Vancouver: Karen and staff have the most fabulous gifts, arts and crafts from local artisans. Such a joy to spend a couple hours browsing and picking up unique items for myself and to use as gifts. I can always find the perfect item and supporting local artisans makes this shop #1 in my mind."

"Union Market in Strathcona (Vancouver), I love how you can be relied upon to have a tasty array of home baked goods ready to fill my belly after a long day working in the nearby community gardens. You're a friendly bunch with an impressive assortment of fresh, local produce, panty staples, and goodies in a lovely little store. The free refreshments during Bike-to-Work Week are much appreciated!"

"There is a tiny, terrific bakery called SwissBakery in Vancouver, hidden on E. 3rd Avenue, just off of Main St. They have the most amazing and tasty baked goods, sandwiches, salads and more. If you've never been there, I highly recommend you pay them a visit. I'm sure it won't be your last. Yummy!"

"To Tango's gourmet meats in Vancouver (in the West End): I love you guys! I have been going to your shop since I moved to the neighbourhood about five years ago. It's so nice to be able to buy food that I can trust (in terms of food safety), and also food that I feel is more ethical than what I can buy at chain grocery stores. Your staff always recognize me when I come in and I always get the best service. Thanks tangos!"

"To: Bean Around the World Where: Lonsdale Quay, North Vancouver Why I love you: Nearly every weekend, I stop by for a treat for me and my dog -- a cup of delicious latte for me and a dog biscuit for my Yorkie. I am always greeted with a pleasant home-like atmosphere. Visiting my favourite coffee shop is the best start to my day. PS: My dog seems to enjoy this place too."

"The Railway Club! (Vancouver) For their friendly service, support of local music, and fulfilling all my Guinness needs!"

"Redl's Home Grown Beef Ltd. in Williams Lake, B.C., produces the most outstanding grass fed, pesticide and hormone free ground beef I have ever had. I met owners Barrie and Tom at the Farmer's Market last year and there's no doubt that they are 100% committed to sustainable, quality beef production. I love their transparency and intention to lower their footprints as much as possible. Thank you!"

"I love Vancouver Special, the (Vancouver) shop has become a little design hub within my community. As a student and aspiring product designer, Vancouver Special holds a very special place in my heart. This past winter, the owner Anne gave me and my partner the opportunity to sell some of our designs at the shop. To be able to display our work at such an incredible store, among amazing local and international designers was something we never thought we'd have the chance to do. Besides that, the shop is just so much fun. They carry designs from Denmark and the Netherlands, as well as many works by local designers. Every time i'm in there I bump into people that I know, and they have the best parties for architects!"

"Dear Ooh La La Cupcakes (Victoria), you inspire me to be a better baker. Nothing brings a smile more to someone's face when you take the effort to create a treat. It's warming to see someone appreciate hard work, sincerity, and love that's put into an expression of passion. And I see that every time in your cupcakes. Just wanted you to know how much you are loved in this city. And if you ever take away the Triple Bypass, I might suffer from an aneurysm. Love ya!"

"Dear Mighty Oak (Vancouver): I love you because you've made our neighbourhood more neighbourly. You've put Earnest Ice Cream literally right out my back door; I love you for this, but my bank account does not. You've brought people together over lovely hot beverages, tender cheddar chive scones, and the cutest handmade marble tables. Thanks for bringing neighbours together!"

"Dear Soap Dispensary, Vancouver, B.C. (Main Street): I love you. I love you in a homemade, sudsy, warm, good smelling, ditch-the-plastic-containers kind of way. Because of you, I have been able to give up the plastic habit and focus my adoration on your lovely, homemade shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and dish soap. Every time I bring in my own containers for you to refill, a small bud of happiness begins to blossom in my heart, and I imagine the earth breathing a little easier. Clean has never been so joyful. Thank you Soap Dispensary for making my life, and the life of the planet better."

"If love is sweet, Chocolate Arts in Vancouver -- you are the best kind of love. Subtle and sexy with your creamy hot chocolate and fancy wrapped truffles -- you make my endorphins race (or maybe that's my glycemic levels). Either way, I love you for your creativity, because who else has s'more eggs? I love you for the hero status I receive when I bring you to a dinner party. I love you for your quality and your integrity when I cheat on you with a kit-kat bar that pales in comparison. So be it dark or milk, the choices are endless - you always have my heart."

"I love Fairy Cakes, they are on Fraser in Vancouver! Cera is a very nice person, the desserts and pizza are vegan and the best tasting food you'll ever try! I hope one day Fairy Cakes will have locations all over Canada!"

"Bernie's Balkan Kitchen in Burnaby has the best burek in B.C.! These flaky cheese pies are a perennial favourite with my family and friends. Thanks, Bernie, for authentic food from the Balkans!"

"I LOVE Chau Veggie Express on Kingsway (Vancouver)! They transitioned to a fully vegan menu (everything is amazingly tasty) and they're just so friendly. Sincerest dearest wishes...."

"House of Jewels on Nicola street between Barclay and Nelson (West End, Vancouver). I love this little boutique, it's been there for nearly two decades. Owned by Nadene Bottin, the sweetest gal. As a student, I don't get to shop as much as I'd like. But I'm loyal to her shop, always go there for jeans and I love how she supports local artists of jewellery, clothing, purses even perfume. The coolest part is I never shop on Robson. It says something about this shop standing the test of time. All you have to do is walk a block and see all the vacant retail space."

"Big hug to Rocky Mountain Flatbread in Kits & Main St. (Vancouver) -- for all the love YOU give to our community: buying from local farmers, locally made kids' toys in your restaurants, and you and your team of volunteers teach kids in our local schools about growing organic food & nutrition. ...And dang your pizzas are yummy!! Love you too!"

"Dearest Caffe Brixton (Vancouver), In the early morning when my neighbours above begin construction I tread towards you, lugging laptop, eager to lap up the hot coffee you knowingly place beneath my nose under the familiar soft light and hard wood of our shared surroundings. A dash of cinnamon and you don't keep your soy behind the counter like some; I feel like I never need to ask you for anything -- you just understand me.

"The day rolls on and once the afternoon clouds are covered by dark you place a small candle on my table, dim the lights. It's Toonie Taco Tuesday and so feels like Christmas, there is an excitement in the air and the faint smell of corn tortillas. The door swings open repeatedly now, to some familiar faces, some new. I wave over a loved one to share in some sangria; after all, it's happy hour now (though every hour I am inside you Brixton, is a happy one). I could stay here until 2 a.m., because you are open that late, but also because I never tire of your music and atmosphere, and the delectable menu you allow me to shower in a plethora of hot sauces you keep just for me on the wall. At the end of the night I use the washroom, read the sweet poetry you left up for me there and it reads like a lullaby, hushing me to sleep. I love you Caffe Brixton. All day and all night."

"I love and adore Saul Good in Vancouver. They have made sending delightful gift boxes so simple and wonderful. They put incredible attention into selecting tasty delights for the boxes, have wonderful customer service, and they've been a business I've been thrilled to be in touch with and be a fan of for over 4 years. The people I gift are SO enthralled with the box they receive, and I love and adore everything Saul Good stands for!"

Whew, that's just some of the gushing for local business we've already received. What are you waiting for? Write your own now, share your love, and enter to win one of the eight great prizes on offer. There are two days left to win.

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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