Green Soul Organics team members Katrina Peters, left, and Melody Jerome share warm memories of their time spent at Tofino’s health food store. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Tofino health food store Green Soul Organics shuts down

“It was more than just a job. It was a lifestyle.”

Green Soul Organics, Tofino’s organic grocery store located in the Cedar Corner building on Fourth and Campbell Street, closed permanently last week after serving the community for 10 years.

Shop manager Katrina Peters worked her last day at the natural health food store on Sept. 6. Peters, who has been on the Green Soul team for over seven years, said she was shocked when she found out in July that the lease had been terminated and they had two months to vacate the space.

“It was more than just a job. It was a lifestyle. A passion. I love supporting organic farms,” said Peters.

On Aug. 11, Green Soul owner Morgan Callison announced on the store’s Facebook Page that the landlord, Dylan Green, had terminated her lease.

“I have paid approximately half a million dollars in rent in this building,” Callison wrote. “[The landlord] can do this, because, unfortunately I did not have a secure long-term lease with the space. When my long-term lease had come up for renewal, it just got turned over to a month-to-month lease without any discussion between myself and my landlord. I realize this was a result in a lack on involvement in my own business at that time.”

Green told the Westerly News that the opportunity to renew the lease was never taken, and the lease agreement kept lapsing from month-to-month.

“It was hurtful to see what was online,” said Green. “We were always supportive of Green Soul and were sad when she moved away.”

Callison, who now lives in Comox Valley, did not respond after the Westerly reached out to her multiple times for comment.

New health food store opening in 2020

New tenants Amorita and Scott Adair signed a five-year commercial lease with Green in early July, and will take over the space on Oct. 1. The signed lease includes paying a proportional share of the property taxes, which are approximately three times greater than residental tax rates.

The Adairs moved to Tofino three years ago from Vancouver. Scott is in the wine export business and Amorita helped open the largest privately-owned liquor store in B.C.

“I feel like we acted with integrity through the whole process,” said Amorita Adair, adding that they offered Callison some money for goodwill, but she declined.

The wife and husband team are investing close to $100,000 of their personal savings to transform the space into a new health food store called ‘Gaia Grocery’. The new grocer will be complete with a full service deli, juice bar, and on tap kombucha.

“We want to offer a nourishing shopping experience. My intention is to be nutrient dense, as whole foods as possible, minimal waste, as organic as possible, and local as possible,” said Amorita, who teaches yoga at Coastal Bliss.

Green said the Adairs are taking over two units that will open up into one longer, 1,800-square foot ‘L shape’ unit that wraps around the Wolf and the Fog restaurant. He said the Adair’s will receive rent reduction during the first couple months for when they are renovating.

“I’m excited to see a local organic grocery store continue,” said Green. “My main goal has always been to have an organic food store there. Food security is a big issue.”

Westside Surf School remains open via phone and online bookings

Westside Surf School, owned by Tofino’s surf pioneer Sepp Bruhwiler, will close its bricks and mortar business after the Thanksgiving weekend on Oct. 15 to accommodate Gaia Grocery.

“[The move] is stressful, but we are still operating with online bookings and through the phone,” said Sepp Bruhwiler, who first opened the Westside Surf School in 2004 out of the Jamie’s Whaling Station basement.

Green said Westside had given him notice over a year ago. He forecasted the change coming in March 2019 when an application to open a cannabis retail shop with the proposed location of where Westside Surf School operates was submitted to the District of Tofino.

Westside Surf School’s resident parrot Jose makes customers smile. Nora O’Malley Photo

Bruhwiler said his posters and trophies will go in storage until they find a new place. The rental surfboards and other equipment will be stashed in the basement of the Cedar Corner building in the meantime as well.

“Westside Surf School is thankful to everyone all over the world and locally for being part of our journey,” said Gisele Bruhwiler, Sepp’s mom, who was often called the ‘Moa’ or mother to everyone that stepped foot in the surf school.

“Life will talk for itself,” she said. “To see what is coming, call or email.”

Amorita, a member of Tofino’s Community Economic Advisory Committee (CEDAC), hopes to help build a sustainable network of food providers on Vancouver Island.

“Food is in my veins. I love to cook, I love to eat well,” she said. “I feel really ready to take this challenge on.”

“I want to earn everybody’s trust the hard way. I want them to see me in there day in and day out working hard to provide an exceptional shopping experience, a community minded shopping experience,” said Amorita.

Gaia Grocery is aiming to be open in January 2020.

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