What’s the status of your business? Did you have to pivot, go online, temporarily close?
We are lucky to be a multi-channel business. So while we closed five of our stores in mid-March, we were able to quickly move our focus to our in-house home delivery service from Greenhouse.ca. We started offering overnight home deliveries in Toronto back in 2014 (we already had delivery vehicles on the road getting fresh juice to our shops seven nights a week, so it made sense), and now we serve a big section of the GTA plus Vancouver, and we launched Muskoka delivery for the summer. In the earliest days of the pandemic, when many people couldn’t leave the house for groceries and wait times for online delivery were long, we decided to create the Greenhouse Plant Pantry. Adding high quality local goods (with an emphasis on nourishing snacks and prepared meals) to our delivery service also gave us a way to support fellow local businesses who had lost some or all distribution in the crisis. Happily, the Plant Pantry lives on; now I can hardly remember a time when I couldn’t order freshly roasted almond butter, organic coffee beans, and plant-based Jamaican patties with my weekly juice delivery.
We were fortunate enough to be able to keep some of our stores open throughout COVID-19. We have had an in-house delivery system in place since 2014, so luckily we were able to safely deliver our product to our customers. We introduced the Plant Pantry very early on to give our customers access to products that may be hard to find and at the same time support other local businesses that may not have the delivery network that we do. We are looking to reopen stores at the appropriate times; our next store to reopen will be in the Pusateri's located below Sak's at the Eaton Centre.
What’s been the hardest part of this pandemic for you?
The hardest part of the pandemic has been thinking about the lasting impact it will have on kids. Particularly on those who don’t have access to enough emotional, educational, and nutritional resources at home. Our two-year-old was pretty down for the few months when she couldn’t see her grandparents face-to-face, play with her friends, or go to the park or library - I couldn’t help but think about the millions of kids in Toronto and around the world in even more confusing and distressing circumstances. On the bright side, getting to see our daughter all day every day (my husband and I usually work at the office and plant) was the biggest silver lining of the pandemic, and I know that has been true for many other families as well.
On the Greenhouse front, having to close our stores and reduce our team was really difficult. In our six years in business, we have worked tirelessly every day to build an amazing team and to watch that be cut in half overnight was really tough. On the personal front, being separated from family was the hardest part. One of my sisters had a baby in early March, and not being able to see my new niece was hard. Luckily, I am now seeing them more often. My other sister lives in Singapore with my two nephews. I'm not sure when I will see them and I'm still having a lot of trouble with that. I miss them desperately, but we are making do with a lot of video chats!
What can we as a community do for you?
Keep taking care of one another. Keep checking in on friends and family members who are less mobile, at higher risk, or overstretched. Keep supporting local businesses and food banks. Keep your spirits up!
Listen. Be supportive. Throughout the pandemic I've realized every day is different and the emotions we are feeling change so quickly. Having a supportive community that is gentle and accepting of these daily changes is essential to get through this together.
What advice would you give women?
Do what makes you happy. It sounds trite, but women so often put everyone else in their orbit before themselves.
Be gentle with yourself. It's ok not to be ok all the time. I feel as women (or at least I do), we can take on the role of caretaker. On days when I'm not feeling 100%, I have to remind myself that it is ok to take a day off from that role. Sometimes it's even ok to be taken care of.
What is your greatest hope right now?
I very much hope we can avoid another wave and another lockdown this winter. And on a more personal front, I’m due with my second daughter in a week, so I hope that goes well…!
My greatest hope right now is that people can see the positive amid all the negative. It is really easy to get down about the world right now, but I am trying (and hope everyone else is too), to see the silver lining. I think there is a huge shift happening in the way we think and act, and I really hope that it continues to go in the right direction.
What are the 3 things keeping you sane?
1. My daughter (though she can also have the opposite effect at times) and husband
2. The thoughtfulness of our family and friends
3. Being in nature and reading are tied for third place
1. Ravine walks with my husband and dog
2. Cooking (my always therapy)
3. Face masks (not the PPE kind, but the skin care kind)
What’s a favorite plant-based recipe you’re making at home?
This is currently my daughter’s favourite smoothie. She named it, and she likes to drink hers out of an old-fashioned ice cream sundae cup. I’m pretty inconsistent with my grocery shopping, and the good thing about this breakfast is that everything in it (except for the oat milk) lives in the freezer or pantry, so you don’t have to worry about keeping too many fridge items on hand. You can also order everything in it from Greenhouse.ca, which is a shameless plug, yes, but it’s also really how I make sure breakfast happens every day!
- 1 frozen banana
- ½ cup frozen blueberries or mixed berries
- 2 frozen spinach pucks (from our Plant Pantry) or big handfuls of baby spinach or kale
- 1 heaping tbsp almond butter or peanut butter (from The Roasted Nut)
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 ¼ cup oat milk (or a bit more or less, depending on whether my daughter feels like having her smoothie in a cup or a bowl)
- Topped with Super Seedy Granola from Mabel’s or Rawcology’s Blueberry Granola
Spotlight! We are committed to representing much greater diversity of BIPOC womxn in this series and we now ask every female food founder we feature to spotlight a BIPOC womxn from their network.
Caroline Simon, Founder of Choose Life Foods - aka The Patti Queen. She makes the most DELICIOUS plant-based patties.