West Wood Organics

West Wood Orgainics Jin Kim Ray Ali Kerrisdale InsiderWhere Good Food and Good Vibes Meet. Story by Heather Burt.

An impressive number of customers who walk through the door of West Wood Organics — the little store nestled behind Kerrisdale’s famous redwood tree at West 41st Avenue and Vine Street — are greeted by name.

Owners Yu Jin Kim and Ray Ali refer to their regulars as “friendstomers,” and it’s clear from their warm and relaxed exchanges that creating a friendly community space is as important to them as the food they stock.

With backgrounds in web design and business operations and a shared passion for good food and good friends, Jin and Ray (“Team Fiji-Korea,” as their Instagram profile jokes) took ownership of West Wood Organics in October 2016. The couple cheerfully admit that while their learning curve has sometimes felt steep, and the demands of running a seven-day, people- focused business have been taxing, their combined skills and enthusiasm have served them extremely well.

West Wood Orgainics store Kerrisdale InsiderWest Wood Organics offers quality produce, a well-stocked dairy case and freezer, and a great selection of dry goods. In recent months they’ve cultivated relationships with local farmers such as Cedar Isle Farm, and small local producers of traditional health foods, including Biota Fermentation, Umi’s Kitchen, Tempea Natural Foods and Moonbrew Tonics.

This focus on locally-produced, sustainable, nutritious foods is part of the communitarian ethos of West Wood Organics — a set of values that extends to offering courtesy services such as grocery delivery during foul weather, vegetable chopping for frazzled cooks, and even a place to sit down and share a mug of afternoon tea. In their modest retail space, Jin and Ray are reviving the spirit and practices of an old-time general store, while at the same time honouring the multiculturalism and health and eco consciousness of today’s world.

West Wood Orgainics local Kerrisdale InsiderVisitors to Kerrisdale might be surprised to learn that there is no major grocery store in the business hub. (This wasn’t always the case; at one time the intersection of West 41st Avenue and the Boulevard hosted both a Super-Valu and a Safeway.) Without a doubt, some residents long for the return of a big grocer close to home; many more simply jump in their car and drive to one of several options outside the village to stock up on food. However, if the typical activity at West Wood Organics is any indication, a significant number of Kerrisdale locals have discovered the far-reaching benefits of doing their shopping in walkable neighbourhoods comprised of small community businesses such as West Wood.

Canadian-American urban activist and journalist Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) famously defended such businesses as places that foster social interaction and community spirit, thereby contributing to the vitality and long-term survival of neighbourhoods. Walk into West Wood Organics any day of the week and chances are high you will witness — and, if you like, take part in — just the kind of spontaneous, vital interactions that Jacobs associates in her writing with small community businesses.

In Jin and Ray’s exchanges with their customers, and, increasingly, in customers’ exchanges with each other, the generic business transactions of a grocery store are enriched — humanized — through the sharing of stories and ideas, many laughs, and occasional worries … not to mention mugs of tea and culinary treats ranging from friendstomer Maria’s homemade cinnamon buns to Ray’s high-octane chutney.

As Jin explains, “West Wood is not only a grocery store; it is a place where all members of the community, from hesitant ESL speakers to lonely seniors, can safely come for human connections.”

It is a place, she maintains, “That strives to combat the extreme individualism and isolation that too often characterize life in a modern, affluent city.”

West Wood Orgainics lettuce bar Kerrisdale InsiderAnd all this is done while offering efficient service and reasonable prices on quality foods.

“Kerrisdale Village” is aptly named. Within a walkable distance, there are, in addition to West Wood Organics, several produce stores, a few bakeries, a cheese shop, and a soon-to-be-opening butcher. West Wood Organics may not have the buying power or selection of Whole Foods, but combined with other village shops, the little store behind the redwood provides a valuable community shopping experience that big stores simply can’t match.

West Wood Orgainics 2307 W41 Kerrisdale InsiderIf you’re in the neighbourhood, stop by and introduce yourself. Jin and Ray, along with their friendly staff, Okta, Young, and Mr. Kim, would love to welcome you.

West Wood Organics
2307 W. 41st Avenue
Vancouver, BC V6M 2A3
Telephone 604-261-2438

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