Belle General is now open in Victoria! They carry a great mix of things from regionally selected BC-grown seeds to “stacks upon stacks of bougie (plant-based) snacks”, and have a desire to have their values reflected in the products they source. We’re happy to see our values of community, and care for people, plants and planet reflected in the shop. Learn more about the story of Belle General and the awesome humans behind it in our interview with shop owner Katie, below!
Can you tell us a little more about Belle General and what you offer?
Belle General is a mix of "modern-day mercantile" and "bougie convenience store", which is to say, we offer a fairly broad offering of goods and wares for humans and their homes, with a major focus on snacks and pantry staples. What makes us "modern" is a desire to see our values reflected in the brands and products that we carry. It's not enough that something is pretty or sought-after ...
Is it sustainably-made and packaged, and does it support a sustainable lifestyle? Are the workers and makers behind said product being paid fairly, and provided with safe working conditions? Is it cruelty-free and plant-based? Does the brand I'm buying from give back to the community in some way? These are all questions I've asked with each and every order I've placed as we approach our launch.
In addition to offering products and brands that align with our core values, we are also providing customers with the opportunity to practice more sustainable ways of shopping. Our "Fill Good" refill bar is a great way to stock up on essentials without the waste, and our BC Eco Seed Co-op program is the ultimate sustainable solution to sourcing veggies and herbs, year-round.
How did the store get started and what was the driving force behind it?
The store started as an idea in the Spring of 2020. We were just entering into the pandemic, and several business opportunities had fallen apart. I was unemployed and had a lot of time to think and dream (and stress, if I'm being honest). I started brainstorming my "dream business", and began by making a list of all of the characteristics it would have. I wanted a business that provided an essential service to the community and also acted as a gathering place for the neighbourhood; I wanted the business to be social and people-oriented, and I wanted it to somehow give back; I also wanted it to be a fun place - somewhere that people enjoyed visiting, and where I could show up in a sweatsuit, and make dumb puns (and get paid for it); I wanted the opportunity to bring in a broad range of products, and switch things up if I wanted or needed to.
Somehow, 12 months and many, many emails, phone calls, tears, sleepless nights, loans and legal documents later, we're (my husband and I) about to open the doors of this "dream business". I am happy to report that the puns and sweatsuits are still part of the daily operations (and the tears, less so).
Can you share some of your experience of opening a business during the pandemic?
Well, it's been something. Starting a business is a ton of work at the best of times, and adding the fear of catching and spreading COVID-19 on top of this (not to mention the delays, product-shortages and expenses), as well as having to do most of the work in isolation has all been very, very hard. It's hard emotionally and physically, but a lot of people are in the same boat as I am, and while we can't gather and support each other the way we would have (pre-COVID), we can still share and show support in other ways; Shout-outs on social media, readily sharing tips and suggestions for getting permits via text, commiserating about setbacks over Zoom etc. have all been essential to my survival.
What does community mean to Belle General?
Oh gosh, it means a lot. No (wo)man is an island, and the people who have helped me build this business (tradespeople, designers, vendors, reps and delivery people to name just a few) have proven that trying to do something completely by yourself is nearly impossible (and not very enjoyable). The whole reason why I started Belle was to connect with people in Victoria, and to help give back to the communities of the makers of our products. Without community, Belle would just be me and my puns, and that sounds pretty darn sad and lonesome.
What are you most excited about for 2021?
I am most excited for COVID-19 to be mostly behind us, and for as many people as possible to be vaccinated and safely able to return to seeing friends and family, I am excited about hugging people and sharing meals, without the threat of causing harm. And I am excited about throwing parties and events in the shop space, once it's safe to do so.
If you're in Victoria you can find the shop at 846 Fort St. For a refreshing dose of pun humour follow Belle General on Instagram @bellegeneral and Facebook at @bellegeneralstore, and check out their website for their hours.
Looking for a BC Eco Seed Co-op Stockist in your area? Visit our Stockist list and map here.