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!