Small business serves allBritish Columbia · May 28, 2020
Colette Griffiths and Chris Allen, owners of The Federal Store in Vancouver
For small businesses, the new normal is synonymous with trialling new models in order to survive. The Federal Store in Vancouver, owned by Colette Griffiths and Chris Allen, transitioned from café to grocery store; offering delivery-by-donation to ensure local community members could access staples regardless of their financial situation. Did gambling on goodness help or hinder their survival?
"Before the pandemic we were known best for our avocado toast and coffee, but as COVID-19 hit we felt it was more important to offer the community access to the basics.” - Colette Griffiths, owner of The Federal Store.
Risk-taking and belief in one’s vision are quintessential traits of any entrepreneur. For Colette Griffiths and her partner Chris Allen, they were accidental discoveries. “Chris and I didn't have any plans to open a café. We were walking home past a shop one night and noticed that the shop, which we had always admired, was papered up. Chris insisted on slipping a note under the front door… and two days later we were signing the lease.” And with that, The Federal Store was born in the heart of Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. For many, it would seem as though it was a crazy move but for Colette and Chris it was an opportunity to be a part of the community, an opportunity they felt they might not get again.
The Federal Store started out as a café meets luncheonette. However, to survive during the pandemic it shifted to a grocery store model that offered deliveries to locals. Furthermore, living in the very community in which they operate, Colette and Chris made the decision to offer delivery-by-donation. It was a risk that rewarded both their business and the community itself. Not only did it allow The Federal to continue to employ all their staff, it even hired a few more!
While Colette and Chris are proud of their spirited employees who adapted to a lot of major changes in an incredibly short amount of time, they feel an even deeper connection with their community. “As hard as this has been, seeing people come together to support one another has been such an amazing and positive experience. From people's posts and shares on Instagram to handwritten notes for us left pinned to customers’ front doors, whenever things seemed particularly challenging, there was always someone who was willing to take the time to put a smile on our faces.”
And if that doesn’t lift your spirits, the owners of The Federal Store hope their take on the possible silver lining of the pandemic will; a paradigm shift towards greater positivity. “We really hope that this experience can lead to a permanent shift in people's attitudes and priorities, and that the world can ultimately move forward as a better place.”
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