The new ‘old fashioned’ general store

My first “Faces & Places” bi-monthly column is out! Originally published in Victoria’s Moss Rock Review September 2006 issue, here it is again for your reading pleasure. Please do check out Trevor’s store if you’re in the area – it’s absolutely worth the visit.

As he set about completing his Master of Arts in Education program at the University of Victoria, Trevor Walker dreamed of educating people about sustainability. While his fellow classmates were likely preparing to work as teachers or the like after graduation, Walker had another vision. He wanted to open a new rendition of an old-fashioned general store, one that would feature organic, fair trade, ethnic and artisan goods and be a positive part of the local community. Walker still planned to educate people about the environment, but knew he could do it in a more active and informal way – through meeting with local farmers and artisans and chatting with the customers that would come into his store.

In mid-August, Walker finally realized his vision when he opened Plenty epicurean pantry on Fort Street. The type of store that Walker always wanted to shop at himself, Plenty is a feast for the senses. From the entrance’s ornate wrought iron gates and the pleasing scent when you step inside to the hand-painted walls in the spice section, the store’s look and feel make it an instantly comfortable place to shop.

Walker created twelve guiding principles for the store, and buys all products accordingly. Goods might be ‘handcrafted’ like the Harumi Ota Asian-inspired pottery or ‘diverse’ like the Arghand pomegranate soaps from Afghanistan. Other items might be ‘local’ such as the greeting cards made in Victoria or ‘certified’ organic like the fresh sunflowers from Haliburton Community Organic Farm. Many more products are ‘recycled’ or ‘renewable’, ‘repurposed’ or ‘efficient’ or conform to several other values. Not all products fall under every principle, but each item falls under at least one. Customers will find a wide range of dry goods and handcrafted items at Plenty now, and should expect more perishable items like dairy and cheeses from Cowichan Bay in the near future.

Each item in the shop – even those not for sale – comes with a story, and Walker revels in telling them. For example, the age-worn butcher-block table in the middle of the store graced not only a previous butcher’s shop on Fort but the kitchen of a woman who works down the street. The old farm scythe was recently found at the back of Walker’s father’s barn. The jewellery cabinet – leftover from the previous store in the same location – that used to hold precious metals and stones, now, appropriately, holds precious teas and spices. The old-fashioned scale perched in the shop’s front window was a hardware store ‘find’ that just seemed to fit right in.

With Walker’s focus on community, it wasn’t surprising to hear that friends and family have stepped in to help him along the way to opening Plenty. Not only were tools lent and support offered by shop neighbours, Walker’s wife – architect Erica Sangster – painted the mural in the back room and designed the wheat board display shelves. Add in to that a guest book that captures the positive comments of previous shoppers and it is clear to see that Plenty is already starting to engage the neighbourhood.

Affable and engaging, Trevor Walker is the epitome of a shopkeeper who cares where his products come from as well as his customers. Whether you decide to stop into this ‘new-fashioned’ general store for wonderful chutneys or tapenades, jams or teas, pottery or spices, be prepared for a friendly smile and – if you’re interested – perhaps a few stories thrown in for good measure.

Plenty can be found in person at 1034 Fort Street in Victoria near Cook and on the Internet at http://www.epicureanpantry.ca/.

One thought on “The new ‘old fashioned’ general store

  1. Well written. Since I can’t go there I was hoping for pics. You do such a good job of integrating your pictures into your writing.Anyhow, you’re off and writing!

    Like

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