Favourite Women-Owned Businesses

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.

twowomenssymbolsJessica 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 (!).

8 thoughts on “Favourite Women-Owned Businesses”

  • I discovered this shop on the north shore (on Lonsdale) last week:
    Contour Active Wear (from Brazil). A lovely lady and terrific sales
    woman (also from Brazil) owns the place.

  • The Ladysmith Health Food Store has the most helpful knowledgeable staff and a fabulous selection, and great prices, nevermind that the store is in a very small town, there’s nothing smalltown about it. I remember thinking when this store began about 12 yrs?? ago, directly across the street from where it is now, in a store 1/4 the size of the current one that you could barely turn around in, that it was a pretty brave move to attempt to move such a wide selection of organics in a town of this size, but brave she was, and grow she did. The owner goes all out to bring out to try and have everything from natural and organic foods, a full line of supplements and remedies from a number of different modalities, she carries a wide variety of natural toiletries and skin care products, organic produce, the widest selection of Birkenstocks I’ve seen anywhere on the island, (and I’ve looked), and to top it off this store carries a few really stylish lines of the finest natural clothing made from organic cotton, hemp and bamboo fibres.

  • Vancouver shop I’ve always enjoyed. Diva on Commercial Drive at Parker I believe. Terrible I can’t recall the owner’s name, we always have such a great rapport when I go in there. The reason I like the store is that it is ever evolving, I’ve watched this boutique change it’s decor a number of times over the years and never once, have I not liked it. The owner (who is not afraid of color) is an adventurous buyer, with ecclectic taste in clothes and accessories. Many items in the store can be classified as wearable art. Pair this with some unique/ funky home decor and gift items, and you have a fun store to shop in, or just to stop by and browse. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure the owner is a single mom. I’ve watched her son grow up, from coming into the store after school (at age 5 or so) , to the last time I was there, he (probably now 13), was helping unpack boxes and filling displays. I’ve always liked to watch the way the owner manages to balance proprietorship, with motherhood; instilling a healthy respect in her child for her work & customers, and politely requesting the occaisional quick moment from her customers to tend to delicate maternal matters. She’s really good at it and it’s nice to see, that humaness show through.

  • The comments are still rolling in, I just got contacted by Janet Weigelt, a self employed carpenter with 20 yrs experience. She worked independently in Victoria for 7 years and moved to Vancouver last year. Now, she’s working for Fixin Vixens along with her own private clients. She says Yolanda of Fixin Vixen’s is great. What she likes about the job is it’s flexiblity. What she doesn’t like, is that society thinks a woman (no matter how qualified) should be paid less. She’s a lesbian but “don’t call me a dyke or I’ll have to use my safety hammer on you!” She can be reached at 604-649-9121.

  • Hey Sophia! I love my woman owned and woman vision business, wild earth arts. I sell goddess prayer flags, sacred woman sacred earth prayer flags and lots of wonderful earth reverant and women created art gifts in journals and bags. It’s a thriving local goddess business that promotes and supports womens art and magic! My number is 1-250-538-1970 and the site is http://www.wildeartharts.com thanks and blessings to you and all the readers! sheya—–

  • Hi Sophia –
    Have you included Bodacious yet? here is their site http://www.bodacious.ca . The idea for opening a clothing store for plus-size women that celebrated their curves is a wonderful one. Within a brief time (one or two years) they were voted best Women’s Clothing store on a Georgia Straight “Best Of” poll. The best part was that the category was absolutely the best, not just for plus-size.

  • Hello!

    I wanted to mention a couple other queer-woman owned businesses I know about.

    My partner, Cheryl Brown, owns and runs Raining Cats & Dogs. She provides loving care for people’s furry children when they are at work or away. She has been catsitting & dog walking professionally for over 4 years, and been in business for herself for over a year now. Check out her website: http://www.crittersitters.ca for more info!

    Another notable lesbian-run business is Liquid Amber Tattoo (www.liquidambertattoo.com). I had my first tattoo beautifully designed and applied by Justina Kervel, who is also the founder and owner. The studio has recently moved to a bigger location at Burrard & Davie.


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