Local chocolatiers Cam and Kim Shaw of Chocolate Tofino are sweet on Tofino's closely connected business community and feel well-supported in town.

Tofino business community a tight-knit group

Insights from your local chocolatier, brewmaster and fish store owner.

Being part of Tofino’s small business community means somebody’s always got your back.

Cam and Kim Shaw, who took the reins at Chocolate Tofino over six and a half years ago, are overjoyed with the support they’ve received from local patrons and other small business owners.

“The economy in Tofino is something very special. It’s like the economy used to be in 1950s and 60s without the chain stores and outside influence. To be part of this core group that’s forging this, that’s fantastic. We’re not like big box store Walmart kind of shoppers. We’re down home local and it’s fun to be part of that,” said Cam Shaw.

In trade, the chocolatiers from Lloydminster do their best to infuse their artisan chocolates with flavours from around Vancouver Island and from their friends down Tofino Main Street.

Hand-picked wild blackberries, Tofino Coffee beans, Tofino Tea Bar tea, local honey, and organic lavender, are just some of the specialty items that greets the palette upon savouring one of their treats.

“It’s really fun to support other local businesses. We’ve even got some chocolate medallions with Roy Vickers art,” Cam said.

Bryan O’Malley opened the Tofino Brewing Co. in April 2011 with his business partners Chris Neufeld and Dave McConnell.

“This was our first venture that we’ve ever done and there was definitely a steep learning curve. We were really fortunate that the community here in Tofino really supported us with our idea. Without their support, that first year could have gone a lot different,” O’Malley said adding that all the local restaurants put their brew on tap.

The entrepreneur from Vancouver did confess however that their product wasn’t exactly the hardest sell.

“People drink beer year round,” he said.

The Tofino Brewing Co. released their first attempt at a dark lager just in time for the holidays.

“Basically, it’s a nice light, crisp lager, but does have some nice malty subtle notes to it that kind of pairs really well with the winter time here,” O’Malley said.

Ahousaht member Richard George has been working in the close-knit Tofino business community for 20 years. His parents, Cathy and Lewis, founded the House of Himwitsa by the 1st Street dock, which he now manages.

“The biggest reward to running a small town business is self-employment and being able to provide work for future generations,” George said.

Five years ago, George opened the Dockside Smoked Fish Store adjacent to the Himwitsa Native Art Gallery.

His three boys now operate the fish store during the summer months and the new expansion has also created the opportunity to hire more young staff.

“We take a grant out to employ First Nations youth. You know the kids that normally would not be able to get work, we are able to offer them summer employment. This last year, we had two ladies from Ahousaht. They were 16 and it was their first job ever,” George said.

In high season, the House of Himwitsa employs 50 to 60 staff.

George said he is constantly proud to see his young staff develop confidence, progress in the industry, or go on to further their education.