Posted by: Kiersten | December 8, 2009

The Girls with the Backpacks

We’ve sent off our revised financials to WEC (the friendly lenders) yet again, so keep your fingers crossed for us!

We did some more networking yesterday and met Barry of Image West Gifts – what a great guy he is!  We ended up having a long chat about business in Ukee, the developments on the books, the history of the local businesses. 

A couple of years ago Barry had been approached by a guy who wanted to start a roastery in the apartment above his store – and he wanted Barry to pay for the $40,000 in renovations the space needed!  How on earth do people like that get funding??  Installing a roaster on the second floor of a building is insane – and a fire hazard!  The $40 K must have been to pay to rip out the exterior wall and rent a crane to get the heavy equipment upstairs.  Not to mention it’d make Barry’s store, and all of his merchandise, smell like roasting coffee – a smell that not everyone finds pleasant.  Roasters belong in industrial space, not in apartments. 

It was incredibly gratifying and encouraging to talk to yet another local seasoned business owner who believes that a roastery would do well in Ucluelet.  We talked about different ways of marketing coffee in the region, how to market it in various seasons (for the fishing charters one month, for eco tourists the next).  It was such a heartening conversation. 

It turns out that the apartment above Barry’s store is going to come up for rent in the Spring – so we may have found a place to live!  It’s a perfect location, it’s walking distance from the gym, groceries, laundry and downtown shopping and it’s closer to the industrial area where we’ll likely set up the roaster.  It’s dog & cat friendly, it’s private and quiet.  We’re optimistic about it – it would be *such* a relief to not have to worry anymore about finding a place when our lease at this off-season B & B runs out.

We have become known around town as “The Girls with the Backpacks”.  Before leaving Toronto, Kat & I bought Seal-Line day packs which are completely waterproof.  You could chuck these babies into the ocean and the contents would still stay dry.  We knew we wouldn’t have a car for a while and we would need to carry our computers, groceries, books etc. around town in horizontal rain, so we figured the dry-bag packs were a good investment.

Well the Ukee folks just LOVE our bags – everywhere we go people comment on them and ask where we got them (Mountain Equipment Co-Op, in case you’re curious.)  What we didn’t realize was how much the packs would become an icon of who we are in Ukee.  We’re out every day walking around with these matching bags, talking to people, buying groceries, waving to folks as they drive by in cars.  The unusual matching bags have made people notice us.  They see us around town every day and ask about us, “Hey, have you met the Girls with the Backpacks?”

Jan, owner of the Crow’s Nest, was the first in town to comment on how well-suited our backpacks are to the climate.  She was the first one to call us the “Girls with the backpacks”.  Next, the lady at the post office greeted us “Hey – the Girls with the Backpacks!  Here to update your Post Office box?” 

Last week during Craft Night at Cynamoka, we were telling Donna how we’re becoming “The Girls with the Backpacks” and another customer came up to us saying “Oh YOU’RE the Girls with the Backpacks!  I see you walk by my house all the time.  I hear you’re looking for an apartment in the spring – I’ll keep keep my eyes open for you.”

When we popped into Image West Gifts last night, Barry asked us “Hey, are you Kathryn & Kirsten?  I hear you’re starting up a coffee roastery.”  He had heard about us and our matching bags and he knew who we were before we introduced ourselves.  People are talking about us. 

The backpacks seem to inspire respect – if we knew enough to bring backpacks so perfectly suited to the region, we must have good sense and therefore will be a good addition to the community.  The bags seem to say we’re outdoorsy, practical and methodical.  We’re down-to-earth, friendly and a good addition to the community.  People are saying things to us like “You’ll do well here,” and “You’ll fit in just fine.”

As we left Image West Gifts, Barry called after us “The Girls with the Backpacks!  Have a good night!”



  1. Heh, in my neighborhood I’ve become ‘the lady with the bucket’ because every morning near dawn I go down the street to collect compost from the bistro for my chickens. Good luck on your adventure, it’s been great to read your blog.

    Anne (Cornerhouse)

    • That’s hilarious 🙂

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