Local co-op grocery and café set to open its doors

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Bill Shields, co-founder of the West End Well, along with future co-op member Miya Nagaraj open the awnings of the soon-to-open grocery store/café. Photo by Anita Grace.

The West End Well is almost ready to open. The grocery store and café in Hintonburg will begin offering locally sourced produce within the next couple of weeks.

“Our goal is to build a local food system,” explains Bill Shields, one of three co-founders of the co-op and Chair of the Board. “The overall concept is that the community can find nourishment in itself.”

The nourishment he speaks of not only includes food, but opportunities for education and engagement—including workshops, entertainment, and a lending library focused on sustainability.

The co-op evolved from the grassroots organization Sustainable Living Ottawa West. Plans for the grocery store/café were announced last November. Already the co-op has amassed a membership of over 230 people.

Leela Ramachandran is a small-scale organic farmer who was elected to the board in June as the producers’ representative. She sees the Well as a “unique and encouraging” venue for local producers. “It’s nice to have a place that is committed to local producers as a core part of its philosophy,” she says.

To accomplish their wide-ranging goals, the co-op is reaching out to local farmers and producers, as well as individuals and organizations involved in various aspects of sustainable living. And their newly renovated building at the intersection of Wellington and Somerset Streets has been thoughtfully designed for partnership and collaboration.

Nearly everything is constructed for double-duty, Shields explains. He points out that grocery shelves can be rolled back to make room for seating when there are concerts and performances. Desks can be folded down for meetings and workshops. Even the tiny space under the rear stairway is being fashioned into a mini-office for kitchen supervisor, Jaqueline Jolliffe.

Upstairs, there is large bright room that by day is the office space of Open Concept, a local open source web development company. Like West End Well, Open Concept’s focus is growing a community of people engaged in sustainable change, such as through active engagement in environment, education, and social justice.

“We are always looking for ways to encourage collaboration,” says founder Mike Gifford. His team moved in to the second floor on July 14 and is working with West End Well to maximize the possibilities of shared space and resources. Gifford says the two organizations have “mutual values and interests,” so leasing office space from the co-op is beneficial to them both.

The other second floor tenant is Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op.

But the West End Well is doing more than partnering with those who share their building. Shields says they are working toward developing other collaborations, such as installing a Right Bike station outside, and organizing Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) drop-offs in the park across the street and joint recycling and composting projects with Causeway Work Centre. They are also giving access to their rooftop to the Wellington West BIA for their free Wi-Fi installation along the Wellington Street corridor.

West End Well is planning for a soft launch once renovations are complete and the official grand opening is planned for September.

For more information visit westendwell.ca.

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