Gathering Place Trading was founded on Cortes Island 18 years ago. Initially run out of a home we rented on Sawmill Road we started selling Rooibos tea, with the Cortes Natural Food Coop as our first customer. I remember those early days of selling Rooibos 100g, first on Cortes, then in Campbell River and slowly working down Vancouver Island. We were so happy that people loved our products and enjoyed drinking Rooibos as much as we did. Right from the beginning our commitment was to purchase products from the best, most ethical and integral farmers and cooperatives we could find, and never import a product that would compete with a Canadian farmer.
When our long-awaited dream of owning land (and building a home) happened in 2006 when we bought 22 acres in Whaletown with three other families, we moved our business to a small room in our jointly owned Common building. We ran the business from that small space for 8 years and began to employ local folks. We are grateful to those early employees who helped us grow!
When we needed to go to Campbell River for our daughter Kai’s high school years, we brought the business there with us. The logistics of getting product to Cortes Island for blending and packaging, and then off the island for selling became too cumbersome and costly. Our first year in town, we rented a home with two other families, on the island highway and ran the business out of the garage with two employees and ourselves. That winter was cold, cramped and awkward for GPT!
The next school year we bought a home in Campbell River that was a legal duplex and ran the business out of the lower level. The business finally had elbow room to expand. We put a container in the driveway, got inspected by VIHA and the CFIA, had shipping and receiving leaving daily from our busy little office and expanded to four employees. We commuted back and forth to Cortes with one of us in Campbell River with Kai in high school and the other on Cortes homeschooling Tosh and Asha and running our little homestead. Over the 6 years we operated the business out of our ‘town’ house, Kai and Tosh finished high school and Asha began her journey. Then, in a bold and scary move in 2019, we moved the business out of the house and found a spacious office/warehouse in downtown Campbell River. We went from 850 to 2500 sq ft! What a difference that made and again allowed us to grow and expand the business. Now, a year later, we have 8 employees, have filled the space and continued our journey of growth as a company, now expanding to being a nationwide brand.
While many things have changed with the business over the years, the constant factors are our grassroots nature, our love for giving back, our commitment to quality, our connection with the farmers and cooperatives that provide us with the exceptional products we continue to be happy to sell.
We want to take this opportunity to thank you. Cortes folks were our first ‘customers’, the first people who believed in us, purchased our products and shared them with friends. You brought us joy every year at the markets, showing up, telling us your stories of how you use and love our products and continuing to inspire us. Truly, we couldn’t have done it without you!
2020 was the first year we didn’t attend the Friday or Christmas Markets. We love the markets, as it’s a chance to connect and socialize with so many people we hold dear. After the ‘lock down’ in March and April, we made the hard decision to not participate in the summer markets. We missed you all!
Now, as we move into 2021, we hold a vision for the future for GPT and our family. We want to live out our days on this glorious island and hope that all of our children choose to live here too. Surrounded by the beauty of nature and the authentic people whom we are so blessed to call friends and community. Our hope is that part of our GPT operations can move back to Cortes permanently, so that when we are done the high school years in June 2022, we can be here full time again.
Sending you love and light this Solstice and holiday season. May your hearth be warm, your heart full, your belly fed wholesome foods and may love surround you always.
Lovena and Ryan Harvey