“Support local. Support your organic farms. I can`t wait for the summer to come when we can go to the Farmers Markets again and see the beautiful produce.”
Since 2003, Aphrodite`s Organic Cafe and Pie Shop is the landmark on W 4th Avenue in Kitsilano. It is one of the few places in town with almost 100% organic menu. (Only 5 things that maybe non-organic in the entire cafe!) They keep the connections with the local farms and producers independently, spreading the love of local food.
VOICE (V) : “Can you tell us how it all started with Allan Christian, your father and founder of Aphrodite`s Organic Cafe and Pie Shop?”
Peggy (P): “Originally, as a child, my father grew up on a small farm in rural Saskatchewan. He always said that he wanted to get to the big city and didn`t want to live on a farm. He ended up marrying my mother in Saskatchewan and moving to Vancouver just after I was born. He was a downtown business man, in the insurance business. It took its toll as he got into his 50’s and he was living a very unhealthy lifestyle. He basically had a health crisis, and he realized that if he continued on this path he wouldn`t be living a very long life.
He decided to walk away from everything and lost it all. He lost the house, the car, the boat, the second house in Whistler and lost his marriage. However, he was never so happy! His focus turned to health, wellness and spirituality and then after a long eclectic return to making a living, he got involved using his marketing skills with Hollyhock on Cortes Island. Through them, he became friends with people at Glen Valley Organic Farm Cooperative in the Fraser Valley.”
Allan found himself full circle and moving back to farm life once again. He put his farming skills and business skills to use helping Glen Valley Organic Farm through their financial hardship and helped establish the farm Co-Op, a very unique model of ownership and operation. While he was living on the farm, the idea of starting a pie shop grew.
P: “Funny enough, a part of the reasons why he thought that a starting a restaurant was a good idea was because of all the food he had access to on the farm! He also recognized how hard a farm has to work to make ends meet. It would be a direct revenue source for the farm if he started a restaurant with their fresh harvest.”
Through a lot of hard work and neighborhood support, the pie shop and restaurant were both quite successful businesses from the beginning and in hindsight it was an early adopter of the farm-to table awakening. People wanted to know where the food came from and to support local.
Then, after a fairly short battle with cancer, Allan passed away in 2008… Peggy was a full time mom with 3 children in Whistler and was juggling two other full time jobs at the time. Peggy felt the place had to continue on, though it was on the brink of closing at the time. She quit her full time jobs in Whistler and took over the business and has never looked back.
P: “After his passing, I came down to help the business that summer and realized that it was such an amazing place and a wonderful connection to the farm and my late father. The customers were amazing and the staff were so great; I felt I needed to keep dad’s legacy alive!”
V: “How has Aphrodite`s grown over the years?”
P: “With Aphrodite`s, our focus is not only the local and organic aspect, but also dietary choices that people make right now. We have more vegan and gluten-free options than we’ve ever had. Because we make everything in house and everything is made to order, one thing that people like about coming here is you can customize your food based on your dietary restrictions or preferences. We are still committed and keep the connection with the farms. We deal directly with local famers and producers whenever we can.”
V: “Do you find people`s consciousness around organic food is rising?”
P: “I think people`s consciousness around health, wellness and organic food choices as well as the environment is rising, especially during Covid-19. One thing that we have definitely noticed is that people are consciously supporting the businesses that they love and they want to make sure that they survive.
The business has actually become stronger because of the support that we had from our local customers. They really love what we are doing and they really want us to survive. It definitely hasn`t gone up, but our revenue has stayed more or less the same even though we reduced our hours. I ‘m so grateful that we have a really committed and loyal clientele that has been supporting us through these times.”
V: “Any changes in your personal life in this pandemic?”
P: “Not dramatically, other than the stress of having to pivot the business on the fly to adapt to our new reality; but it’s also been inspiring. When the pandemic reality hit, I remember it was Tuesday, March 17th; St Patrick`s Day. Monday was our order day and I ordered just like a regular week. On Tuesday, we heard that it would be our last day and we would have to close. We had so much fresh food arriving and I was so worried that it was going to waste! So I spent the first 2 weeks of the shutdown just trying to deal with all the food. We donated a whole bunch to Downtown East Side shelters and made a bunch of soups and donated them to kid’s lunch programs.
Because of Covid we had to totally reimagine the pie shop business and since then we’ve turned it into a little market with organic dried goods, flours, coffees and teas from our favourite suppliers and bringing in new locally produced items like jams and soaps and pottery. I’d like to continue getting more local products into the shop and continue expanding it; I always had a dream to do this kind of thing and the pandemic helped make it a reality.”
V: “Do you think local support will continue to be strong beyond the pandemic?
P: “Yes, I think so! When you support local, that money goes to local people who again support local people. It`s important to keep that money and economy flowing in a smaller circle which has less of a carbon footprint on the planet.”
Aphrodite`s menu items can now be delivered to your door through Uber Eats, Doordash or directly online. Their new family style, take home, heat-and-serve dinners include a delicious all organic melt in your mouth Beef Bourguignon with Homemade Spaetzli and a rich and creamy Seafood Chowder, and more coming all the time! YUM!!
Peggy`s favorites: Aphrodite`s Smoked Salmon Benny and their vegan Roasted Fennel Tofu Scramble Wrap! Can`t leave without a slice of their home made pie that started all the history!