Husband-and-wife team Chris

Husband-and-wife team Chris

BUSINESS BEAT: Shop in Victoria’s Oaklands neighbourhood a throwback to old-time merchants

The Local General Store features unique products from small-scale manufacturers

Stepping through the door of The Local General Store on Haultain Road, one is greeted with a pleasantly fragrant aroma.

Almost sensing the visitor’s curiosity about the source of the fragrance, shop co-owner Alix Harvey leads him to a corner of the shop where a vintage full-sized Beach stove is mostly covered by a collection of organic body care products.

“I found the stove on UsedVictoria,” Harvey says of one of her shop’s more unique displays.

Next to it is a cupboard housing custom-made pottery – mugs, plates and other items – made by at-risk women in Vancouver who are being taught new job and life skills. Nearby is a shelf featuring hemp underwear and shirts, courtesy of a Bellingham supplier.

“The idea, as much as possible, is to be sourcing local and B.C. and Pacific Northwest products,” says Harvey, a retired special education teacher who wasn’t ready to kick back yet.

The non-grocery items are just part of the mix for the Local, which opened about a month ago next to Adams Food Fair – a more traditional corner grocery store – and across from the popular Koffi café at what is being called Haultain Corners.

There’s a section of raw whole grains, and an electric mill for turning rice, oats and wheat into flour. While there’s many gluten-free products on the shelves, Harvey clarifies that this is not a “health-food store,” but a “whole food store.”

With the help of husband, Chris, a retired assistant superintendent of schools for Greater Victoria, and a pair of enthusiastic staffers, Harvey is chasing her dream of narrowing the distance between consumers and their sources of food and other specialty products.

Her inventory philosophy is simple, find quality suppliers nearby and limit the number of brand choices so as not to overwhelm customers, but also to have room to stock a broader product mix. “I remember getting to a point where I just wanted to shop in one place,” she says.

With fresh baked goods, a modest amount of produce, organic chocolate, specialty pet foods and artisan crafts, this shop is as much destination as old-time general store.

A word that comes up more than once in the conversation is “relationships,” as in knowing your suppliers and your customers. Both are important, Harvey says.

As a way to better acquaint her to both, two regular features are planned. The first, a weekly What’s for Dinner? in-store and online recipe idea, sees staff and customers contribute their favourite fresh food meals – the Local provides the ingredients. Harvey also plans to bring in suppliers for monthly product demos.

She calls the shop a combination grocery store and gift shop. Sounds like a true definition of a general store if there ever was one.

– The Local General Store, 1440 Haultain Rd., 778-265-6225. Open 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Find them online at thelocalgeneralstore.ca and on Facebook.