Photograph by: Arnold Lim, timescolonist.comBut before you ask why a hip retailer like Hemp is opening in one of Canada’s most heavily populated senior centres, consider these seeds of wisdom:- Everyone who lives on the Gulf Islands rotates through the community at one point or another.
– The town helped launch Elizabeth May to Ottawa and into history as the Green party’s first candidate to earn a seat in parliament.
– And some of those seniors, well, they’re the original hippies, right?
Obendorfer and Moon, who both worked at Hemp’s downtown store for more than a year, said they scouted locations in Oak Bay, Langford – even Saltspring Island – but settled on a 2,600-squarefoot store on Beacon Avenue to sell hemp-based clothing lines, seeds and foods and personal-care products.
“We ended up falling in love with Sidney,” said Obendorfer, 33, who has a blended family of four, ages two to 16, with Moon. “The community here is full of life, it’s tight-knit with lots of good energy.”
He also cites the airport and ferry terminal as major traffic drivers, the highly successful Sidney summer market and a diverse business community with full storefronts.
“Elizabeth May confirmed for us that there’s already a momentum here toward sustainability and environmental awareness and we want to do our part to help activate that,” said Obendorfer.
It is the first Hemp & Company franchise and more are on the way, says Bill Finley, who founded the retailer with Lorna Knowles. The couple operate the Government Street store, a location in Vic West and another brand, Shift Natural Fashion, on Johnson Street.
Finley said the company has added more local hemp designs in both men’s and women’s wear by Victoria designer Mary Joyce. More sustainable products in personal care as well as foods are being added as the company ramps up expansion through franchises.
“It’s important that we have local designs because less than one per cent of clothing sold in Canada is actually made in Canada,” said Finley.
He said sales have been steadily improving over the years, even through the recent recession, as more consumers bring sustainability into their daily lives.
He called the first franchise “organic” because it involves employees. Moon and Obendorfer, both Ontario natives, met in a hemp store in Kitsilano nine years ago and sustainable businesses “have been a thread throughout our relationship,” said Obendorfer.
The new Sidney store will also include Hearth Eco Design Gallery, a joint project by Knowles, noted Fan Tan Ally designer JC Scott and Ryan and Susi McMillan of Riverbank Design, who make furniture and other products out of reclaimed wood. The McMillans made the podium for May’s speech after winning the federal election vote, prompting her to say she “owns the podium.”
Hearth Eco, which will use about a third of the space, will open in the next few weeks.
For Obendorfer and Moon, their new Hemp and Co. store will be a family affair as 16-year-old son Forest will work along side the couple.
Fourteen-year old daughter Cali and Aliyah, 7, will also chip in, helping to set up a play area for kids, likely to include two-year-old sister Mirabel.Hemp & Co. is at 2348 Beacon Ave., in the former House Dressing Company location. Call 778-426-3088.
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