Local Farmers Market regulars and aficionados will be happy to hear that they won’t have to wait until next spring to get their fix of fresh, local food and community spirit. New Westminster’s Royal City Farmers Market will launch a new monthly Winter Market beginning this December.
The Winter Market will be a monthly event on selected Saturdays from December to April in the hall at Holy Trinity Cathedral, and will feature locally produced meat, fresh winter produce (such as beets, cabbage, chard, onions, and potatoes) as well as prepared foods (jams, pickles, pies, dips and sauces), hot food, artisans and crafters, live music and other entertainment, children’s activities, community booths and more.
The RCFM board is very happy to find a location so close to the summer market space in Tipperary Park. For those of us who take transit, the hall at Holy Trinity is even more convenient, as it’s just behind Columbia SkyTrain Station.
As market regulars know, RCFM has been asking for feedback from customers and vendors on overall market performance, as well as gauging demand for a winter market. The online and in-person survey showed overwhelming support for a winter market, from both customers and vendors.
As observant fans of RCFM and Tenth to the Fraser have likely already noted, we are big market boosters here. Will Tomkinson is the newest member of the RCFM board, and is the market’s vendor liaison. Jen Arbo is the RCFM Market Manager. And I volunteer with the market, maintaining its website, Facebook page and Twitter account along with Jen and board Vice-President Matthew Laird.
The decision to move ahead with the RCFM Winter Market was just finalized this evening, so that’s all the information we’ve got to share. Watch for full details soon on market dates, vendors and more on the RCFM website, Facebook page and Twitter stream.
It was the best of stores, it was the worst of stores….well, nothing is that simple.
New Westminster residents, like folks all over, develop a preference for grocery stores. Those of us habituated to the 6th Ave. Safeway in the Royal City Center have had our choice expanded as the Save on Foods has recently opened in New Westminster Center, on 6th st. Like anything, our individual choices will be based on a number of factors including location, layout, staff, selection and price. While it is impossible to say one is the best of stores and one is the worst of stores, your author has gum-shoed around the two uptown establishments to get the skinny on your neighbourhood grocers.
Leaving aside pricing differences, I will start with my impressions. Initial impressions of the new Save on Foods store on 6th St are mixed. The store is small and tightly packed. It feels crowded even when there are few shoppers. The merchandisers have made good use of every inch of space and it is well organized. The parking lot is smallish and the spaces are very close together. I can imagine that on a busy day a driver would have to be patient as the parking and departing cars carefully negotiated the narrow spaces. The store itself is very well lit, the staff are few but helpful, the checkouts feature a self check-out option, a feature I have seen in other stores that always seems to take longer than a professional cashier. I will test those another time. The carts are all new and they behave themselves. The kiddie carts are at the customer service desk and are shaped like a space shuttle. It should be noted that the kiddie carts can not be taken down to the parkade as they are not suited to the escalator-ramp. A parent parked in the underground lot will have to transfer the groceries to a standard cart or use carry out service. One thing that stood out in this store was the bulk foods section. There is a very wide assortment of goods to choose from here, easily double the choice at Safeway. It is well organized, clearly signed and it features easy to use dispensers, including coffee beans, nuts, staples, candies, cereals, etc.
I can’t quite remember if this was a “Food Barn” store or “Super Valu” but in my childhood, I remember the same space being used for grocery store purposes. Like the mini-golf and the old Westminster Mall shopping mall before it, the space seemed bigger then. Now, the building has undergone the latest in a series of renovations, making this building one of the most often re-used structures in the city. It was rebuilt to LEED standards; the first platinum rating in the province but I wonder if any of that environmental ethic was passed on to the choice of produce coolers, refrigeration units and other electricity guzzling retail furniture. Overall, despite the crowded feeling, I found the shopping experience pleasant.
For the Safeway store, tucked in the western end of the Royal City Center on 6th Ave across from the Library, my experiences there are familiar as they are to many New Westminster citizens. The parking lot is large and offers more space to move around but always seems busy. The store itself is less well lit but it is much bigger and spread out. It is always buzzing with customers and it is hard to go through the store without one or more of the numerous staff asking if they can help. The cashiers are so familiar, you know which ones to avoid and which ones might remember your two-year-old’s name. It is a pretty easy shop with few surprises. It features a full pharmacy and florist and the bakery seems a bit more capable. While I buy all of my meat from Pete at the Queen’s Park Meat Market on 2nd st, Safeway seems to always have butchers on duty cutting and packaging meat and fish.
Like the new Save on Foods, longtime residents are familiar with having a grocery store in this part of town as it is roughly in the same position as the Woodward’s Food Floor. Customers at Safeway can trundle their carts right out into the parking lot or the sidewalk with no additional stairs, ramps or escalators. The store offers two rather dilapidated kiddie carts.
For the price comparison, I used the Official Tenth to the Fraser Sample Grocery List. This is my best guess at the products that are most relevant for my family and the average New Westminsterite. While I will try to compare regular prices as much as possible, much of the selection is on sale at any given time. Where relevant I have included additional sale pricing info. Prices as of Aug 2, 2009.
It is difficult to find a true pattern here. With some exceptions, staples may be cheaper at Safeway and all of the extras cheaper at Save on Foods. Price is not everything of course and the minor differences in prices may even themselves out in a full grocery cart.
A note about both grocery stores: why do they have to display magazines with disgusting headlines at kiddie eye level at the cashiers? We have no choice but to see them. Our kids have no choice but to see them. It is invariably a Cosmopolitan magazine cover that shouts “How to be an Orgasm Whisperer” or “100 sex moves to make him beg”. Now bikini models are one thing but can you imagine your four year old, just learning to read asking “daddy, what is a bad girl sex trick?” I am always compelled to cover them or the most offensive covers in any store that displays this text at the front cashiers. I agree that this is a bizarre tactic but I encourage all of you to do the same. Protecting the brains of 4 year olds is not a religious goal as anyone that knows me will attest. I just think it is the right thing to do.
Lastly, these are not the only two stores in New Westminster. There are a number of smaller operations, produce marts, butchers etc. Wal-Mart sells groceries in Queensborough, McBride Safeway, IGA at 10th and Columbia and many shop outside the city for the lower prices at Price Smart Foods on Marine and (much cheaper) Super Store on Lougheed near Maillardville.
Like me, you may do much of your shopping at the Farmers Market and in locally oriented businesses. Whatever the case, tell us about your best grocery deals and how you navigate the food-retail labyrinth. We would love to know. If there is keen interest, Tenth to the Fraser could make a regular series on the subject. Perhaps a price savvy customer base may result in lower prices. Use the comment button below to register your experiences.
Admittedly, I’m a little biased. I was recently appointed as the market manager for the Royal City Farmers’ Market, but I am so excited about the market’s reopening coming up!
The second incarnation of the Royal City Farmers’ Market is about to kick off June 25th with a special “Welcome to Summer Vacation” market, featuring kids’ activities including toys and crafts, a magician, face painting, and a special appearance by Mayor Wayne Wright who will start the market season off with a bang! The market runs June 25 to October 8 and is on Thursdays from 3-7pm in Tipperary Park, which has got to be one of the nicest urban parks around.
The market had it’s first year last year after a 25 year hiatus in New Westminster and it was so successful that registered vendors for this year have almost doubled. Farmers’ markets are an essential part of your local economy and by shopping at the market, you are supporting the “little guys” and you know you are getting fresh goods. You’ll also reduce your carbon footprint by buying goods produced / grown / made here in BC (most are from the Lower Mainland).
Aside from the shopping, the Royal City Farmers’ Market encourages you to bring a blanket and hang out in the park. The market isn’t just about shopping, it’s also a great place to meet up and socialize with your friends and family. What better way to spend a summer night?
Chuck Puchmayr’s band was playing, the weather was good, conversation was nice, and we met some great people – like Loren from the Apple Barn Pumpkin Farm, a market vendor who drove all the way out from Abbotsford to attend the fundraiser. Several New West celebrities were there, including our newly elected MLA (and long-time MP) Dawn Black, Mayor Wayne Wright, and councillors Jamie MacEvoy and Jonathan X. Cote.
TenthtotheFraser’s own Jen Arbo seemed to be a bit of a nexus in this crowd – a passionate RCFM supporter and new vendor, she’s also been recently appointed as the Market Managing Coordinator. Congratulations, Jen! Will worked the crowd in his signature way, prompting Jen to remark that his Twitter name should be @Willhepolitic? – a rhetorical question given Will’s longtime threat to run for office.
I think I get to claim the most mischief, however, when an incorrectly hung bathroom stall door had me committing an act of “Guerrilla Access” right there in the ladies room at the Brooklyn Bar and Grill. I was surprised enough to note that there is a wheelchair accessible stall in a bar bathroom, but when I found that the door swung inward (into the stall) instead of outward, I realized it was impossible to use. Imagine trying to close the door in a stall space of approximately the same size as the door’s swinging arc – now imagine trying to close it while sitting in roughly 16″ x 18″ of wheelchair and you’ll see why wheelchair bathroom stall doors should never swing inward. My solution was to procure a screwdriver from Graham and make a little MacGuyver change.
Thankfully it went off without a hitch, the door now swings outward, and no hard feelings to Brooklyn Bar and Grill – thanks for the fundraiser!
NOTE: It was brought to my attention that Mayor Wright was on vacation at the time and not able to attend the fundraiser. -jt
One of the items in our datebook here at Tenth to the Fraser, is the Royal City Farmers’ Market Second Annual Fundraiser. This year the fundraiser is at the Brooklyn Tap and Grill and will feature the musical guest The Syndicate, featuring Chuck Puchmayr. There is a silent auction with the top prize a weekend getaway for two in Harrison courtesy BCAA Travel on 6th Street. There will be many other excellent items to bid on.
Tickets are available at the Village Coffee Lounge at 705 12th Street, Vienna Treasures at 909 12th Street, by phone at 604-522-8567, or at the door. The Brooklyn Tap and Grill is located at 250 Columbia Street. Tickets are $20 and include a burger and a beer. By buying a ticket, you are helping the RCFM organization continue to do what it does.
The Royal City Farmers’ Market Second Annual Fundraiser is on June 11th, from 6-9pm. We hope to see you there!
There was a hint of a congratulatory mood at tonight’s Annual General Meeting of the Royal City Farmer’ Market at the New Westminster Public Library. The meeting was well attended and a number of people renewed their membership or became members with their $10 donation. Tenthtothefraser.ca also became a member in a way as both Briana and myself joined the society.
Andrew Murray, founder, past president and a major spokesperson for the RCFM, reported that over the 16 market days of the 2008 season, more than 11,000 persons attended the market and generated well over $220,000.00 in revenue for the vendors. By all accounts it was a successful season with happy vendors, lots of local buzz and acclaim and a RCFM Society on solid financial footing for this next year. Andrew spoke of the successes:
“It was awesome….vendors sold out early on the first day….they were shocked at the response, they were slack-jawed…we really differentiated ourselves from other markets by the high level of vendor care”.
There were challenges too. A major event to celebrate New Westminster’s 150th anniversary was dampened by rain for example. The society had to ensure that the Market was on solid footing even as it was placed on an aggressive slope on the 4th street parking lot next to Friendship Gardens and Tipperary Park. For all of this, though, the market leadership learned and adapted.
For the future, the market is keen to build on their 2008 success with a 10% growth goal in attendance and vendor revenue. One very interesting plan is to sign on with the BC Association of Farmers Markets (BCAFM) Farmers’ Market Nutrition and Coupon Project. This program offers a 15$ coupon each week to a selected number of low income families with kids. The coupon holders can use them on produce, eggs, mild and other unprocessed foods. Being a part of this program would help dozens of families get high quality nutrition and support a community building event. The program is funded by the BC Government and available in a growing number of health regions. Great Idea!
A full board of 7 members were elected for the year. This itself is high praise for a non-proft society, while so many other board seats go unfilled. Also telling was the fact that 9 people ran for a spot. Elected members will sort out positions amongst themselves in February. Elected 2009 board members are Andrew Murray, Marj Staal, Matthew Laird (past candidate for NW council, member of NWEP), Jane Wark, Sheila Roswell, Ilona Schachner (a market vendor) and John Ashdown. John owns the popular Village Coffee Lounge on 12th street and as I understand it, he was one of the founding members of Voice New Westminster, a local municipal political slate (no, not a slate, well, yes really, a slate). John’s establishment features a selection of organic coffees, and the connection to the farmer’s market is a natural one. (pun intended).
I can not wait to get involved for 2009. Congratulations to Andrew Murray and all the team that made the 2008 season such a roaring success. Huzzah!