Last night, Saanich council met to discuss a number of topics, one of which being the fate of the Foxgloves Flowers flower stand (farm cart) at the front of our property which is in a residential area.
The Short Summary
In short, the result was that while there was no permanent solution allowing us to continue, we were granted an extension to our existing 30 day requirement to cease the retail stand by an additional 45 days.
Council and mayor were in unanimous support of this extension.
We have until July 7th now, before we need to shutter the stand.
While we were a bit disappointed that there was no permanent solution put in place that covered our situation, and that the extension did not cover us until the end of summer, we are very grateful for the reprieve. It seemed clear that the council and mayor were attentive that something should be done in the short term to allow our stand to continue, as was the very vocal will of the community which was demonstrated through many emails to council and mayor.
A friendly amendment was made to the motion that was on the table to temporarily allow for farm stands within the urban containment boundary, to allow for those offering ‘value added’ items. While ‘value added’ is a fairly vague term, and of some concern to some council and municipal staff, because the motion of concerned is considered a temporary measure acting much like a pilot project, council and mayor also seem to be in support of allowing it to move to debate in the coming weeks.
We hope that the motion to temporarily allow farm cart sales within residential areas will be passed before our extension expires so that we can continue to operate for the summer.
Why Are We Doing the Flower Stand?
If you’re reading this and wondering why we are fighting to have a flower stand in a residential area, I’ll provide a bit of a backstory.
Colleen has operated Foxgloves Flowers out of her studio for the last ten years. Prior to that, she had a retail shop down on Johnson St for ten years. But when we started a family, she made the decision to switch to a studio setting so that she could provide more balance with being a mom and a business woman. Being in the studio, it gives her a chance to grow from the gardens and pick flowers specifically for day-to-day orders or for wedding and events. Retail has been the farthest thing from her mind for the last ten years. And having the ability to be around the family while still operating her business has provided much needed balance.
When The World Changed
It was mid March, and the world was suddenly struggling with a pandemic. COVID-19 had put a stranglehold on the local economy and we were thinking that this may be the end of Foxgloves. The phones stopped ringing, the online orders dwindled to nothing, and all the events and weddings that were queued up for the summer cancelled or rescheduled for fall or 2021. Around 80% of Colleen’s summer business is comprised of weddings, funerals and other events, all of which are impossible to be held now as large gatherings are not permitted.
What was she to do?
Well, as we’ve said in the past, when life gives you lemons, pull out the lemonade stand. And that’s just what she did.
An event cancelled at the last minute, the phones were quiet, so she did what she considered the unthinkable and put her flowers out at the end of the driveway (at our son’s lemonade stand) by donation. She made a post out to social media to say “if you need some joy, take some flowers”.
And that was March 17th.
A Seemingly Beautiful Solution
Quickly, the flower stand became a popular place to stop by just to get out of the house. Local neighbours loved the ability to add some flowers to their homes without having to go to a crowded grocery story. People on their walks (because everyone was getting out for a walk because they all had cabin fever) would grab something on the go. Visitors started asking if we could get veggie starter plans, an annuals, because they didn’t want to go to garden centers.
We were covered on CHEK News on their “Upside” segment as a feel-good story. We were overwhelmed with support, and it looked like the fear and worry about the loss of a significant portion of the summer business was going to be offset by the flower stand.
Just When You Thought It Was Going Well
And then on April 22nd we received a visit from Saanich bylaw explaining that we could not sell retail — there was a little bit of fine print which we had not been immediately aware of, which prohibited it.
We were resigned to the fact that, while we had been granted 30 days to finish up what we were doing, that the summer was going to be tight.
But then Colleen became determined that perhaps we could ask for some sort of exemption given the times — perhaps council and mayor could have compassion for small businesses that are attempting to be creative to get through these times. This was not intended to be a long term solution, and to be quite honest, once normal events can resume, even if we are permitted to operate long-term, we will likely shutter the flower stand as it is a tremendous amount of work to maintain daily.
But as it is, right now, we’re trying to make the best of a difficult situation.
Since April 22nd, we’ve been overwhelmed by the community support for our stand, by the signatures on the online and written petitions, the accompanying comments, the letters written to mayor and council, and by the kind and supportive conversations that we’ve had from visitors.
While the original date to the enforcement deadline has been extended further, we are still going to pursue the temporary motion which would allow other farm stands to operate within residential areas until such time as a more permanent bylaw that addresses the issue can be put in place.
Tough times are still ahead. There is still uncertainty where it comes to the economy. But we’re determined to keep moving ahead, so that we can survive and be here for when we get past COVID-19.
Brandon Devnich is the husband of Colleen O’Farrell (owner/operator of Foxgloves Flowers). While not normally in a day to day role at Foxgloves, Brandon manages the website and ecommerce operations. He has also found a new role in helping to drag the flower stand out and back each day. You may find him greeting you at the flower stand, or puttering around the front gardens muttering to himself.