It’s a welcome sight to see new independently-owned businesses moving to our fair city. It speaks to a new vibrancy that is bubbling up, a creative DIY culture that finds a welcoming environment here. We talked to four of them that have settled in New Westminster, started not by existing residents, but rather savvy business owners in the know that the city is on the cusp of massive change.
Brick + Mortar Living
Brick + Mortar Living has become a go-to place for people wanting to find unique handmade items by craftspeople. Jenn Pistone, co-owner of the business with her two daughters, Julia Dewhurst and Emma Nash, says that the decision to start a business in New Westminster was primarily motivated by the low cost of space here compared to Vancouver.
While attracting customers from all over the Lower Mainland using thoughtful, well-done social media has been critical to their success, becoming part of the local community has been essential for their business too, and also rewarding. To get grounded here, it was important to,“… get to know the clients, earn their trust, and cater to their wants,” says Pistone.
Taking on a nearby space to create a pop-up gallery, having an annual shoe drive for local charities, and being part of the merchant community association are some of the things that they have done to become happily established here. Her advice to would-be business owners here:
Embrace the community.
Brick + Mortar Living is located at 50 & 52 Sixth Street in downtown New Westminster.
Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies
Barley’s Homebrewing Supplies on East Columbia Street in Sapperton is approaching its first birthday and owner-manager Curtis Van Marck says he couldn’t be happier with its location. A newbie entrepreneur, Van Marck’s business resulted from a foray into the world of homebrewing and he noticed the shop from which he got supplies was always busy.
Having stumbled onto a niche that is pretty wide open in the Lower Mainland, Van Marck couldn’t be happier with this decision to put his business in New Westminster. “Its accessibility by car and SkyTrain can’t be beat,” he points out.
What he hadn’t realized when moving here is what a warm and welcoming community New Westminster is. It wasn’t long before he was embraced by the local homebrew club, Brew Westminster, and soon felt part of the larger community. Sapperton Day and the local business association have also helped him find his feet here. His advice for would-be entrepreneurs:
Find a niche. That’s where the success lies.
Barley’s Homebrewing is located at 101 – 455 E Columbia, in Sapperton.
Banana Lab has thrived and grown in this community from its humble beginnings three years ago in a 400 square foot space on 6th Street to its new roomy location in Sapperton. Selling unique, ‘upcycled,’ and refurbished home decor items and furniture, the business relies on the fine arts sensibility of Jin Kim, and the technical capability of her husband, Wonduk Kim. Beautifully re-furbished mid-century teak furniture is their principle inventory, though you’ll also see pieces such as a flamboyant lamp made from an old-style red phone, a wall clock made from a record player, and shelves of consignment items from local craftspeople, too.
Banana Lab is the duo’s first business, and Kim says that New Westminster is a great incubator for start-up companies because of its comparatively cheap space and less competitive market than Vancouver. The city’s central location in the Lower Mainland is also great for attracting customers from the surround- ing areas. With so much happening here now and with the in flux of people from Vancouver and elsewhere, Kim is upbeat about doing business here. Her advice to entrepreneurs:
Have a clear vision of what you want to do.
Banana Lab is located at 457 E Columbia, in Sapperton.
Old Crow Coffee Company
Old Crow Coffee Company has become a fixture in downtown New Westminster in its first year, having already established a loyal customer base. Owner-manager, Stephanie Vu explains there are two main ways Old Crow has found success: serving ‘third wave’ coffee, which is brighter in flavour than what is served in most places, and creating a welcoming environment for customers.
She and her partners, Rob Mosser and Tim Lajambe, saw the need for an independent coffee shop in the community while she was working here as a metal fabricator. Serendipitously, she found the perfect spot on Front Street downtown while driving by.
In her view, New Westminster is a great place for a new business. “There is a need for many types of unique businesses and it’s easy to stand out here,” she says. “It’s a tight knit and growing community with many diverse groups.”
She has responded to the arts community in many ways, by displaying artworks and having open-mic events. Her advice to would-be entrepreneurs considering this city:
Be flexible and open. Grow organically so you can respond to the community, now, and as it expands and changes.
Old Crow Coffee Company is located at 655 Front Street in downtown New Westminster.