Meet the brilliant owner of Neighbourly Cafe & Grocer- Tessa! Founder of the infamous KWENCH Culture Club, Tessa has joined forces with her colleague, Alison Bigg, to open this gorgeous storefront on 2031 Store Street. From the perfect cafe lattes all the way to an all-local inventory, this cafe and grocer is a must-visit!
Neighbourly Cafe & Grocer
Welcome to Small Business Month! Through October, you will be introduced to some amazing local downtown Victoria business owners. We interviewed each owner to learn more about their business and what it is like to operate downtown.
Today, meet Tessa of Neighbourly. Let’s read more about what she has to say!
Inspiration Behind Neighbourly
Five months prior to the pandemic, Tessa had opened KWENCH on 2031 Store Street as a full-service office space for small businesses and like-minded individuals to creatively collaborate with one another! Beyond this, it is also a space to help people facilitate happiness in their lives. As this office space was a predominantly events-based environment, this caused a major hit when the pandemic reached. In a pleasant turn of events, the same building that KWENCH operates out of had an open space available in Tessa’s lease. After donating the space to BC Housing for mattresses and sleeping bags, Tessa further explored ideas into accumulating revenue with this large open space. Joining collaborative efforts with her dear friend Alison Bigg who is a skilled chef and artist, is what ultimately led to the opening of Neighbourly Cafe & Grocer. From there, Alison as the store manager was able to curate exactly what would be in the store and plan the interior design layout of what now is Neighbourly. Ever since its grand opening in April 2021, it has taken downtown Victoria back to its nostalgic corner store era and is extremely well-received by the public!
“A big question for us Especially during the pandemic and really our ethos was We didn’t want to be something that took business away from other businesses downtown. We wanted to be supportive. We wanted to purchase products from mosi’s bakery and then sell, or from wildfire…all the products in there are local as possible!”
Tessa emphasized when Neighbourly was still in the brainstorming phase, they asked themselves: “What could we do to help other businesses downtown?”. This sparked the ideology of thinking local first coupled with aligning synergetically with these local businesses in order to sell the products at Neighbourly. As a result of this, visitors are able to purchase a wide variety of local items from this one location! Tessa further explained how amazing it is to carry these local brands like Dumpling Drop, Maiiz, or The Nulla Project. It allows these small businesses an opportunity to be in a secondary wholesale store that can further broaden their customer base!
“There are so many people in the city doing amazing things, and the more local we keep things the more we know it helps the economy, community, really the safety of everything!”
Sustainability & Local Mindset
Keeping that same all-local vision when purchasing inventory for Neighbourly, Tessa and Alison also ensure that sustainability factors are also accounted for. Careful research into the businesses sustainability practices is a major key when deciding what goes onto the store shelves. A large component of this sustainable research is looking at the packaging. As KWENCH carries many eco-friendly values, Tess wanted to carry this ethos into Neighbourly. Examples of this are keeping the space a no-single-use plastic package zone, buying items in bulk and repackaging them into jars so they are returnable, Nulla reusable cups, and so much more in order to minimize their plastic waste! These ideas were also adapted into Neighbourly’s values as well to encompass the same environmental beliefs.
“We are all stewards of this earth and I think all businesses have a social and environmental responsibility to be really conscious citizens!”
Sense of Community Downtown Victoria
When asked about a sense of community within downtown Victoria, Tess boasted how wonderful it has been operating here. As Neighbourly operates to supply Victoria with all-local products, it stands to support so many amazing businesses out there and to celebrate their efforts! Tess also explained a fun project Neighbourly ran on social media to take photos of all their neighbours on the block such as Discovery Coffee. She explained this form of advocating in honour of other businesses leads to a much happier, healthier, and symbiotic community.
“The happier we are as individuals, the stronger, safer, and more innovative we are as a community.”
Advice to other Small Business Owners
Stay true to your vision Tessa shares! This is a very powerful anecdote Tessa follows as many people can skew you from your passions or authenticities when you are first opening a business. Following your beliefs and keeping your business aligned with these ideas is a valuable lesson Tessa has learned over the years!
“Simplify your systems! Everything is transferrable, like through your employees who should feel valued!”
Make sure to check out Neighbourly Cafe & Grocer on 2031 Store Street!
Thank you to Tessa for being a part of Small Business Month and sharing your voice as a beloved downtown Victoria business owner! View our other blog posts for more incredible local business interviews.