The Art We Are

Christina Grono’s warm smile, earnest hospitality, and zest for local living are three of the many reasons that The Art We Are Café is abuzz with activity from Monday-Saturday, often late with open-mic nights.

A Kamloops native, Christina is the creator/owner of The Art We Are, a local artisan market and café. When asked about the café’s inception, Christina honestly states, “I didn’t like school…I felt unsettled. I loved photography and pursued that. I held a photography show in my parent’s basement and the guy that did my frames for my photos…well, his wife was opening up an art gallery and she accepted my work but a few months later she decided not to open the art gallery… I felt like this was the one little spark that I had going. But then she said to me, “Why don’t you do it?””

With zero experience but a penchant for the arts, Christina opened The Art We Are artisan market one month later in 2009. From solely serving tea alongside artisan pieces to introducing biscuits, salads, and coffee, the market outgrew its second floor space and migrated to a larger, street level at 246 Victoria Street, with an arts studio and Irish pub as its neighbours.

Even though the business has grown, Christina’s mission statement remains steadfast. She “…wants a place where everyone will feel accepted. With art, I let anyone who wants to put art up, put art up. And now with the food it’s like the vegetarians can come, the meat-eaters can come, the celiacs can come, the sugar lovers can come, the non-sugar lovers can come.”
Apron-clad in stripes and floral prints, Christina’s staff are just as upbeat and welcoming as the owner herself. With backgrounds as diverse as the art spanning the walls, it is difficult to paint a picture of Christina’s staff. There’s the devoted Australian, the hardworking mother, the budding artist. To Christina, they are “what keep me going and what keep me happy…I’m intensely proud of them.”

The cooperative nature and steadfast attitudes within 246 Victoria Street have spilled to its neighbors throughout the downtown core. Christina reiterates this by stating, “We all need each other to succeed downtown. I can run over to Motivo and they will give me coffee cups…Fratelli’s, we shop there for all our groceries. Hello Toast, we have a good relationship with them. I think healthy competition is good. It keeps you accountable, striving to do more. We also try and respect other’s uniqueness…that’s just our thing downtown!”

The café and artisan market’s uniqueness is evident with Central Perk-esque couches, corner nooks, and a patio fit for dozed-off dogs and friends comfortably reading in each other’s company. So, next time you’re seeking live music, a gift of local art, homemade cornbread, or an array of loose leaf tea, be sure to stroll home into The Art We Are Café!

Zack’s Coffee

Over twenty years ago, Dan Zackarius opened Zack’s Coffees, Teas & Gifts in the historical Ellis Block, located on the corner of 4th Avenue and Victoria Street in downtown Kamloops.  The coffee shop’s charm has remained a constant throughout the decades due to its famous striped awnings and bold varieties of coffee beans and tea leaves. However, since 2012 Andrew Blackwell has been the proud owner of Zack’s alongside a staff of ten that is a, “close community of really friendly people.” Blackwell’s family is well-known in the Kamloops community for establishing Blackwell Dairy Farm in Barnhartvale in 1913, and the family’s contributions to local charities and events.

Every day, waves of office staff, retirees, and students fill up the space of dark hardwood floors and a wall of windows. Andrew attributes the store’s success to being, “…fairly interesting and cutting edge…a third way of coffee which people may not expect.” Without skipping a beat, he mentions his staff, “are dedicated and have stuck around….I’m proud of them. They always do a great job.” Whether they are shooting freshly ground espresso or preparing your slice of lemon meringue pie, the staff at Zack’s Coffees is down to earth and welcoming. The long-term staff of the ten often socialize outside of work, a handful of them living in downtown Kamloops as well.

It is clear their products speak for themselves for all demographics of tea and coffee drinkers. One thing customers and residents may not know is that all coffee beans here are roasted in-house. When asked about general coffee bean roasting etiquette, Andrew states that, “it changes from bean to bean and from crop to crop. There are different varieties and different beans taste better dark and vice versa. Some have different properties of fruit notes like citrus or more orchardy and some can have more chocolatey notes. You want to tailor the roast to every bean.” This is what they do with coffee beans from Costa Rica, Kenya, Ethiopia and other higher altitude, equatorial countries. Zack’s Coffees “ongoing experimentation” with roasting techniques has revived the ‘morning cup of joe’ for espresso enthusiasts.  On a Monday morning, you may be sipping a Costa Rican blend whereas on Tuesday you’ll be surprised by the aromas in a Kenyan blend. Similarly, the clientele at Zack’s are pleasantly unpredictable as previously mentioned.

Andrew sums up the neighbourhood he lives and works in nicely by stating, “…the feeling of people moving around rather than just cars going from one place to another is nice, especially in a city that’s spread out like Kamloops. It’s a little more organic.” In a fast-paced world, we may all need to be reminded every now and then to slow down and enjoy an afternoon engrossed in a novel or great conversation.

In the past, Zack’s has hosted all-ages, live music events for jazz musicians and folk artists alike. Stay tuned to see what the future has in store for Andrew and his team at Zack’s Coffees & Teas!




Red Collar Brewing

Since opening in November 2014, Red Collar Brewing (RCB)- under the ownership of Anna-Marie and  David Beardsell- has become a beloved craft brewery and taproom, shaded by sunflowers and murals at 355 Lansdowne Street in downtown Kamloops.

David- Red Collar Brewing’s Beermaster- and Anna-Marie have been in the industry over two decades, spanning across the Atlantic Ocean from Germany to British Columbia; however, they chose to live and work in downtown Kamloops for a few reasons. From a brewers perspective, Kamloops has “very good” mineral content in its water for brewing. From a personal perspective, downtown Kamloops offers the accessibility and resources- such as schools, stores, and a strong track and field team- that is unique to their family. On a larger scale, RCB distributes to pubs, restaurants, and liquor stores from Sun Peaks Resort to Vancouver Island without comprising its quality.

You will not spot televisions on the walls, but the taproom’s charm is brought to life with a stack of board games, banter, and live jazz on the occasional Saturday night. It is undeniably the local watering hole for up-and-coming artists, Thompson Rivers University students and co-workers alike.

Today, Red Collar Brewing has four, year-round products- IPA, Blonde, Dubble and Tripel- however, the brewery’s tanks are small enough to create limited batches for local events. For example, RCB created Afterglow IPL for the Kamloops Art Gallery’s multi-day event, Luminocity. The Beardsell’s contributions to the Kamloops community have contributed to a growing downtown community

Whether there’s a fresh foot of snow or its summer solstice, we recommend a Friday night at RCB.  After all, Red Collar Brewing’s staff have created something special on Lansdowne Street in downtown Kamloops.

HOJA Mongolian Grill

More than fifteen years ago, Maxine Tsai saw an opportunity and moved from Vancouver to open up HOJA Mongolian Grill at 256 Victoria Street. Fast-forward to 2016 and HOJA Mongolian Grill has grown to a staff of eighteen. On any given weeknight, you may spot university students on first dates, a mid-week staff party, and rowdy sports teams in all corners of the all-you-can-eat restaurant.

HOJA stands in its own restaurant category in Kamloops for many reasons. First, HOJA is the only Mongolian restaurant in Kamloops. Secondly, your personalized meal- which is vegan, vegetarian, and celiac friendly- is prepared on a stone grill, where the head chef has one opportunity to perfect your bowl behind a small wall of flames. The buffet setup allows personalized dishes to be concocted from eight types of meat or seafood, twenty types of fresh vegetables, and a maze of tangy sauces. There are plentiful options for the picky and exotic eaters alike!

Maxine’s humble and happy demeanor is evident in HOJA’s Mongolian Grill’s ongoing participation across the Kamloops community. The restaurant’s business model is a testament to promoting local talent, events, and opportunities. More recently, Maxine opened up a second restaurant in the Aberdeen Mall in order to cater to the demand across the city. Sitting atop the cash register is a fishbowl stuffed with scribbled names and well-written phone numbers. Every customer can enter a weekly draw for Kamloops Blazers tickets during the hockey season on top of earning Digital VIP points to redeem at the Aberdeen or Downtown locations.

Open for lunch and dinner, HOJA Mongolian Grill lets your experience Asian cuisine on a local budget!

The Plaza Hotel

Built in 1928, The Plaza Hotel remains Kamloops’ oldest hotel at the corner of 4th  Avenue and Victoria Street. More recently in 2010, the boutique hotel underwent six months of extensive renovations under the direction of the General Manager, Shatha Al-Reihani. From unrolling new carpets, installing new dryers, and rewiring new telephone lines, The Plaza Hotel’s management anticipated, and designed for, the comforts of leisure and corporate travellers alike.

Today, Shatha manages all departments of the hotel from housekeeping to capital expenditures to The Fireside Steakhouse & Bar, a five star steakhouse. The landmark hotel has managed to retain its trendy and historical charm through various decades, which is a truly difficult feat in an era of mass-produced hospitality chains.

Shatha states that, “Our front desk staff go the extra mile. We make sure your room is perfect, we inspect every single room before check-in. They have taken guests’ pets for a walk when guests’ have had meetings or hospital visits. Their success is my success because, from the moment guests step in to the moment they step out, we are looking after them.”

The staff not only anticipate, but accommodate all guests by providing a range of services. For example, the Plaza Hotel is the only hotel in Kamloops that provides complimentary global calling so that guests can stay connected across the world at any hour. Moreover, the hotel provides free yoga, discounted parking, and dining vouchers for guests. Most importantly, forgetful travellers can receive or borrow items- such as HDMI adapters, travel adapters, iPads, or nail polish remover- from the “I Forgot My…” card in every room.

Regardless if you’re visiting downtown Kamloops for a concert or a conference, be sure to soak up the warmth of the fireplace lobby while you’re en route to your next destination!

Tala Clothing: Bringing Style and Culture Together

Tala Clothing has grown and flourished as a company since it started business in the fall of 2003. The shop emulates the character of it’s owner, Ish, through its unique and spunky ambience and the name which she wchose for her own business. Ish explains that the word ‘Tala’ has multiple translations from her first language, some of them including the day she was born in Ghana. Ish’s vibrant personality is reflected in the store’s success and treasures.

The original concept of Tala Clothing “to bring Africa to Canada, more specifically to Kamloops”, as Ish describes, adding, “we wanted to reflect the culture of Africa in a town which may not know so much about it through things like art or our wooden jewellery”. wwThe store still remains loyal to Ish’s vision of representing her roots through interactive ways. Furthermore, Ish speaks enthusiastically of the store’s location, stating that, “having a store downtown just makes sense for businesses looking for dedicated shoppers…you get fresh air, natural light and always get to see happy faces”

Ish personally chooses all her clothes with Tala’s values in mind: things she loves that reflect her culture. “We go to Los Angeles and handpick our clothes ourselves.” Tala is constantly growing as Ish intimately selects what is sold in her store- in the beginning from adding clothing to her store and more currently extending her fashion to men’s and to different styles for women.

Bringing a new perspective to the Downtown Kamloops core, we are so thankful that Ish has chosen to share her lifestyle and expand retail diversity with Kamloopsians!

Kennell’s Shoes

For Kennell’s Shoes, it’s all about the quality that can last practically a lifetime.k From the shoes that they carry to the history of their business, genuine and lasting quality is the key as owner, Stephen Kennell, describes it.

“Kennell’s is known for carrying quality shoes that last forever… we fit them for people and size them up to make sure they fit well.” When a person buys a pair of shoes, as Stephen describes, it easily becomes their favorite thing to wear with any outfit and any uoccasion. The Kennell’s shoes business always make sure that their product “doesn’t wear out too quickly…” so that your favorite pair of shoes may never need to be replaced. This quality holds for all of the stock at Kennell’s from wallets to purses to socks (quite necessary to purchase with a pair of shoes) and insoles.

The timeless characteristic that is associated with the shoes at Kennell’s is important because, similar to shoes that last a long time, the business has always existed and remained despite many changes in downtown Kamloops. Kennell’s Shoes is a business with one of the longest and most successfully lived histories with 68 years in the making as of 2016! Stephen explains that since day one of Kennell’s, the business has always been from within his family. “It was my Grandpa’s decision to have the store here yuin downtown.  Then my parents took it over after my grandparents. I was actually a mechanic for the first 16 years of my life but when my parents wanted to retire, I didn’t want to see the business fall. 21 years later, now, I’m training my daughter!”

As Stephen recounts, the Kennell’s Shoes business has seen four generations of the Kennell family operate the store, all four being incredibly successful and never considering changing the location of the storefront. Stephen
himself has owned the business for its most recent 21 years, and reveals that as the third of four generations to operate the store, he “pretty much knows shoes inside out.” This knowledge makes itself apparent in the Kennell’s shoes service, what Stephen think makes the store what it is and what has always been Kennell’s shoe’s priority throughout its career.

From knowing their product to assuring its quality is everlasting, Kennell’s Shoes is one of downtown Kamloops’ oldest and most adored businesses from 1948 to date.


hTravelwise specialises in exactly what their business name advertises…travelling wisely! Roxanna Ferguson, owner of Travelwise, expresses how important it is to know and to be passionate about what the business sells. Primarily, they are selling their service. When asked what three words would best describe Travelwise, Roxanna’s choice of description sums her company’s business up to a tee: “Knowledgeable, experienced, and friendly.”

“We have everything from 20-somethings coming in to book their backpacking trips to Thailand right up to senior citizens who want to do a long tour of Europe or the United States… and everyone in between!” Roxanna tells me that this range is exactly why it is so important for Travelwise’s service to thrive on knowledge, experience and friendliness. “There are 9 of us that work here and we have all been around the world so we love selling every part of the world and we’re glad there’s not one specific destination or specialization that we do. That’s what makes Travelwise exciting is selling something different every hour of every day and that is why we love working here!”

A business which focuses entirely on service rather than retail is what
makes Travelwise unique from the downtown core in Roxanna’s perspective. jIt is clear that their focus on service and unique take on a business is largely successful. “Our longevity speaks for icons of downtown for over two decades.”

Travelwise is an “icon of downtown” as Roxanna describes due to its passionate customer service but because of the community effort which Travelwise priorities. Roxanna and her business is often involved with events downtown including local markets and events, despite that this may not be expected of a service-based industry such as her travel agency. “Travelwise likes to be involved because we’re a part of this community and part of what being downtown is all about is being involved in all of the different events and fundraisers and festivals.” jjInvolvement is important to Roxanna and to Travelwise because owning a business, as she views it, is “a natural cohesive mix between work and leisure.”

Whether Travelwise is contributing to the downtown core as they have for all these years or providing service for customers with a travel bug and a need for experience and knowledge, Roxanna’s business is a necessity and institution to our downtown Kamloops community.

Karin’s Fashions

Written: September 2016

At Karin’s fashion, one thing is certain- store owner, Karin, knows fashion. Her store is a local jewel downtown-from the ambience to one-of-a-kind retail options!

Now on 4th Avenue, off the corner of Victoria street, Karin’s Fashionsk
has been downtown as the city centre has grown. Karin reminisces that her store originally migrated downtown for the Thompson Park Mall, a shopping space which no longer exists. While her business was still booming and the mall became a part of history instead, Karin knew her store would still be here to stay. “Eventually,” Karin explains, “the mall got re vamped but we knew we wanted to stay downtown and… here we are in the heritage building!” Now celebrating their fifteenth year as a store, Karin’s fashion has been tailored to exactly the way Karin had always envisioned it to be.

Starting with the fashion, it was important to Karin to remain loyal to national products. “We mainly feature Canadian manufactures that are well priced; Piccadilly from Ontario, Morphine, Must, Libra and Jay are all Canadian labels we carry. We have a line from Sechelt and Gilmour from Vancouver…we’ve trulykk tailored our assortment to customer needs and requests,” explains Karin.

Her dedication to the fashion of her store is all part of the element which first comes to mind when Karin thinks about her business: customer service. “We offer personalized customer service,” gushes Karin. “I think service comes first and foremost… we help people with their wardrobe planning for women that are really hard to fit and we love to work with them, sometimes for two hours or more. When they’re in need of something, they know that we will provide them with genuine service and time.”

When asked if this is her key to success, Karin agrees. “We know our product, the customer and how a line of fashion fits them. It all just comes with experience!”

With years of genuine service, dedication to local products and fashion expertise under her belt, Karin’s Fashion is just waiting to help customers experience amazing service and look fabulous while doing so!

Healthy Life Nutrition

To own a health store such as Healthy Life Nutrition, you have to know your products, businesses, and body systems hhinside out.

Discussing the company with co-owner Richard Fifer, it is clear  his knowledge benefits each and every customer. Richard works alongside his wife, Margo, and local herbalists at 440 Victoria Street. He states that, “I’ve read about herbal medicine for years. I was always interested in owning a business like this and my wife was too. She managed a health food business in Squamish prior to moving here. We decided being in Downtown Kamloops was a good fit for us!” Since the business’ 2005 inception, Richard speaks positively of its location and believes, “the most exciting and interesting place of a city is downtown.”

hReflecting on his customers, Richard expresses that they are, “pretty much across the spectrum,” and that the array of stock is ideal for various customers with specific needs.“The customers are usually familiar with our stock when they come in, they know what they want, and I know exactly how to help them.”

For example, Devil’s Claw- one of the bulk herbs that Healthy Life Nutrition offers- has both a daunting name and  hidden use that may not be as obvious to the untrained professional as it is for the Fifers. Richard states, “It’s used for  joint pain and inflammation. It’s the big seller for people who own horses”. It turns out Healthy Life Nutrition is as helpful for horses as it is for humans. “One of our most popular herbs is Valeria, used for horses that are skittish. It works wonders on horses and it’s actually where the pharmaceutical drug Valium came from”.

With bulk herbs and culinary spices, Healthy Life Nutrition has natural products for everyone!