Committed to Courage & Collaboration in Comox & Cumberland

The pandemic has rattled everyone to their core. We have all been asked to compassionately collaborate not just within our immediate communities but globally. We have all been in a constant state of discernment and flux. Some have been frozen in fear yet have the luxury of constant income and have been in the secure safety of their homes as they ride this out. This ‘on-hold state’ has incited many to defer to a state or inertia causing best intentions to dissolve into velleities.

Our commitment to ‘the CoVid cause’ has pushed boundaries for all of us, yet this pandemic has produced superheroes who have shown great tenacity and optimism. The list is long, but this week I was particularly touched by the resilience and ability to rebound by our local small business entrepreneurs. They have had to summon the most soulful depths of courage to march forward in the face of the unknown, with everything at stake.

Little Village Store is a very special shop in Cumberland. The owners, Ellian and her daughter Lyla Ocean, have weathered the pandemic with generosity, grace, optimism and strength. In the midst of the pandemic, once the tightest restrictions were lifted, they reopened with enthusiasm and open arms, welcoming new artists, such as my self-published books, into their product offerings. Ellian has been very supportive and generous in her consignment arrangements. Ellian and her daughter have filled the store with educational, artistic and fun clothing, books, toys, cards, games, and creative new whimsical keepsakes and provocations. Lyla Ocean helps her mom with fun social media posts and makes sure that there is a playhouse in the store to keep other children engaged. Ellian and her sales associate, Barb, are always filled with joy and curiosity, willing to take the time to chat and develop friendships with their customers while the shoppers take their time discovering the magic of the store. This shopping experience will inspire you to give up on big box and online shopping and embrace the warmth and intrigue of local small retailers.

Have you ever thought of opening a coffee shop, but thought better of the idea in fears of competing with the likes of Starbucks and Tim’s? In Comox we have a coffee shop, The Mill, in the heart of the downtown core that is constantly uber busy and would give any big chain a run for their money. It is a fairly large shop offering well-spaced indoor seating plus an expansive patio. It’s not uncommon for the place to be so packed that customers are lucky to find a place to sit. The beverages are tasty and the sandwiches mouth watering delicious. Mark has decided this will be his new home away from home, (he will be the self-proclaimed Norm from Cheers lol).

What makes The Mill especially precious are the customers. Mark met Kwaku Amoateng, an air force firefighter, artist and he is also writing children’s picture books. Mark had us exchange information and I met him last week. I was inspired by his story. He has overcome obstacles as a new immigrant to Canada, endured the basic training and rigor of his job, and above all is a remarkable caring father of a son who is learning to cope with autism in our very linear world. Kwaku and I plan to get together regularly for brainstorming and offer mutual support and encouragement with our writing. During my first visit at The Mill, I found other customers very friendly engaging in warm hellos and conversations. The staff is very helpful and pleasant.

This week was a reminder that the little guy (entrepreneur) is mighty and not to be ignored. Our local shop owners offer the personal touch and unique personal experiences that we just don’t get shopping on-line or with big box retailers. It’s a reminder that being a patron is not about purchasing and consuming stuff. It is about recognizing that vibrant interesting communities full of magic and intrigue are supported and grow through our support and encouragement. It is incumbent on us to purchase goods and services from our local neighbours who have the courage to share their talents and risk it all.  Above all, these gutsy entrepreneurs create a culture of collaboration by providing us with venues that give us enrapturing experiences at both the daily micro level and the macro town level. Bravo!