Since its grand opening on March 19, Neechi Commons has seen steady growth in customer numbers and in excitement over what is being offered in the clean and spacious facilities.
The store’s shelves are filling up with staple foods, household supplies, baby needs, snack foods, dairy, meat and produce. The fresh foods section is an oasis in a barren land of convenience stores. A fish counter is coming soon.
Kookum’s Bakery currently features bannock made in-house. A hardware section is on its way; for now, there is a display of bedbug remedies. One corner of the market is dedicated to specialty foods/items and will have its own cashier.
Everyone working at Neechi Commons is thrilled with the positive atmosphere. Over 50 jobs will be created. Many are part-time positions that provide needed income and job experience for community members.
Neechi Foods Co-op is a worker co-operative, owned and operated by its staff. Investment shares can also be purchased by the general public.
Shelley, a staff member in charge of security and public relations, had a good first day on the job. She enjoyed meeting people, noting the new faces from outside the community.
One of the faces belonged to a downtown dweller who used to shop for groceries at Zellers. After reading about Neechi Commons in the newspaper, he decided to hop off the bus on his way home from work to check it out. Although he will need to shop in Osborne Village for some things, he was pleased with the variety he found.
Locals can’t help comparing what they see to the old California Fruit Market that used to inhabit the space. Although there are fond memories of the original owner’s store, everyone seems to agree that Neechi Commons is a gem when it comes to grocery shopping. Groceries aren’t all you can get, though.
There is a second floor, accessible by a spiral staircase or by elevator, and it’s meant to be a cultural hub with the Wiisenin Café’s big, bright windows and mouth-watering menu of down-home, Métis and North End offerings including: soups, salads, and sandwiches; beef, chicken, pickerel and bison burgers; wild rice croquettes, and bannock-based breakfasts.
Patrons can browse the Neechi Niche Arts Store, where they are greeted by the incredible aroma of freshly smoked furs and hides, and the vibrant colours of aboriginal art, moccasins, clothing, blankets, and sculpture. Quality art supplies are available at prices comparable to major art stores. Workshops will be offered in traditional skills like beading and drum-making.
Neechi Commons has been a long time coming, but well worth the wait.
In the words of president Louise Champagne: "We’re getting there. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there."
Neechi Commons is located at the corner of Main Street and Euclid Avenue with a parking lot accessible from northbound Main and from Euclid behind the building.
For more information, visit www.neechi.ca.
Sonya Braun is a community correspondent for the North End. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.