I was sitting in one of my favourite restaurants, a little diner within walking distance of my house called Docker’s Diner. Joanne Agreometros, the owner, came by as usual to chat with my wife Jeanette and I and we got talking about how she started the place. “My friends thought I was nuts.” she said. She had twelve years of experience in her field and they thought she should just get another job.
The first two years were hardest. The location, in one of the oldest parts of the city, with cobblestone streets and heritage brick buildings nearby, has a lot of charm but as yet, low foot traffic, being surrounded mostly by factories and industrial use buildings.
Joanne has made this difficulty into an asset by building community. One summer, Joanne went around personally to all the businesses in the area and introduced herself. She buys her ingredients where possible from local butchers and grocers and doesn’t mind if customers bring in a cup of coffee from nearby JJ Beans. Her casual style diner has become a favourite among the construction workers and longshoremen in the area, so much so that she has to do refinishing work on the floor every summer to recover from a winter of workboots.
Four years after opening, Docker’s is thriving. The retro-style diner is clean and well-managed, open from 7am to 3 pm. Joanne, a straight woman, is definitely lesbian friendly, and reserved a table for breakfast for our wedding party the morning of our wedding last year.
Talking to Joanne got me thinking about all the great women-owned businesses I know of so I started asking around for recommendations. Here’s what I’ve got so far. I invite you to add your recommendations below.
Jessica Brown, a traditional chinese medicine and registered acupuncturist, has a practice in New Westminster and was recommended by her wife Kirn.
The Dragon and Unicorn was recommended by Carol Stewart – “Jackson Berger and her partner Kathy Lewis have The Dragon and Unicorn Farm in Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast. It is a 4 acre rhododendron farm and art gallery. Kathy is a surperb woodworker. They are also very active raising funds and paddling for the Breast Cancer Dragon Boats. 2348 Sunshine Coast Highway, Roberts Creek.”
Carol notes that “I read the local weekly paper and found that one person has complained that Dragon and Unicorn is contravening an old bylaw that states a home-based business must only sell things they actually produce themselves. Their gallery promotes local artists and artisans. It seems that only one complaint is enough to stop the business! Many people are supporting Kathy and Jackson; I hope they will be given special permission to continue. In the meantime, any publicity or awards will surely help. ”
Susan Yeager and Diane Driver of Dreamweaver productions have been hosting and providing music services for the over 30’s women’s dance crowd for years, including an affordable and community-style pride dance at the Vancouver Rowing Club each year.
The Rhizome Cafe, owned by life-partners Lisa Moore and Vinetta Lenavat, profiled last quarter. They’re just completing their first year of business and are a great cafe that could use your support – I suggest people go in and eat lots of their good food. Their weekend brunches are my favourite.
The Roundel Cafe – On Hastings just west of Nanaimo, the Roundel has been purchased and re-opened by new owners Dena Sananin and husband Mick. The atomosphere, food and pricing is a tiny bit upscale of the usual east side diner cafe, but includes free-range eggs and fancier salads along with vegetarian classics like tofu scramble and homemade veggie burgers. She also gets her supplies in the neighbourhood.
Other great women-owned businesses include Commercial Drive’s – Sophie’s Pet Palace (lesbian owned) – which sells pet food and supplies. Mary Brooks, the owner, was sponsor of the Sophie’s Bitches softball team in Vancouver’s lesbian Mabel League. It’s All Fun and Games in the next block is owned by two women and sells a nice selection of quality children’s toys and books. Urban Empire sells lots of kitchy and irreverent items from rubber chickens, political buttons and the Rosie the Riveter action figure pictured above. Of course there are also the lesbian-owned and women-owned businesses already mentioned or profiled in Lesbian Quarterly.
I know there are lots of other women-owned businesses out there. If you have one to recommend (please say why) I invite you to comment on this article below. (To avoid spam, all comments will be approved by a human being before showing up). Click here to read all the great comments we have already (!).