Gabriel Ritsema has long hoped to bring a grocery option with a focus on sustainability to Squamish.
Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ritsema’s shop, Grounded Grocer, is set to open soon on Tantalus Road.
“Organically, this has been brewing for a while,” he said. “Squamish could use a more sustainable option.”
With a strong emphasis on bulk products, one of Ritsema’s main goals is to eliminate packaging by having customers refilling their own containers, though in current times, he’ll be making compostable bags available as a COVID-friendly option.
“If we can all just pay attention to how many packages we have to open to make a meal and the impact that that creates, [it would help],” he said. “We’re so accustomed to opening packaging and that’s how we cook our meals.
“We’re numb to how much waste we do produce sometimes and we’re trying to avoid that.”
The bulk section will have a few different types of storage, he said. There will be gravity-fed bins, so people aren’t touching the food, with staff frequently sanitizing handles. For items in a bin that need to be scooped or selected with tongs, customers will turn in the utensil to staff for sanitization before re-use.
Ritsema also plans to offer pre-filled containers with customers paying a deposit on the re-useable container.
“We just have to follow all Vancouver Coastal Health guidelines and sanitize often, and we shouldn’t have any issues there,” Ritsema said. “Everyone needs to feel comfortable, so we’ll be navigating that as things progress. There’s an evolution to everything.”
In addition to bulk staples, Grounded will offer everything from teas to oils and vinegars to soaps while featuring refrigerated and frozen section with eggs, milk, ice cream, frozen fruits, vegetarian and vegan meat and dairy alternatives.
“We’re limited on space so we can’t have the same array of things that the grocery store has, but we’ll have eggs and milk and that sort of thing,” he said.
Vendors include Blue Heron Creamery for the plant-based cheese and he plans to use Sea to Sky suppliers for produce when it is seasonally available.
After getting established, Ritsema hopes to offer smoothies and ready-made food
Ritsema has been hard at work renovating the space, and while there are still some tweaks to be done, the main hold-up has been acquiring permits. He hopes to open by the end of November.
“We’re booking our inspections right now,” he said. “We’re waiting on the little things.”
Though the business hasn’t yet opened its doors, Ritsema feels welcomed and like he’s filling a necessary niche in Squamish.
“Everyone’s here for the outdoors and if we can do our best to be as sustainable as possible and live in alignment with the world that we care about, then that’s for the better,” he said. “We’re seeing a positive response from the community and that feels good.”
For more, visit groundedgrocer.ca.