Whitehorse greenhouse teams up with local artists, food co-op

Whitehorse businesswoman Fay Branigan is diversifying her product line by partnering with artists, craftspeople and small non-profit organizations and offering them a place to sell their goods.

Cliffside Nursery adds everything from coffee to chainsaw art

Cliffside Nursery has been open in its new location for two weeks. In the back is the former shed that will become a coffee shop in January. (Kiyoshi MacGuire/CBC)

Whitehorse businesswoman Fay Branigan is diversifying her product line by partnering with artists, craftspeople and small non-profit organizations and offering them a place to sell their goods.

Branigan owns the Cliffside Nursery in Whitehorse's Hillcrest neighbourhood, in a big building that used to be a church. Her main business is a greenhouse which previously kept her occupied for three months of the summer.

Whitehorse businesswoman Fay Branigan is parterning with a local food co-operative. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)
Now, it is half-filled to serve winter customers, who are "thinking about spring, or looking for gifts."

"In this town, you can't rely on just one thing," she said.

Branigan sells seeds and plants for people pining for spring, and art for everyone.

"There's people making beautiful stuff that's not what you would put in a gallery," she said. "I have a furniture person, I have a chainsaw artist, a person making aprons, things like that."

In the back corner of the building is Branigan's old shed. She set up a kitchen in it, and plans to sell coffee and muffins out of it, starting in January. She wants to offer Hillcrest residents a place to walk to for coffee. There are many government offices nearby whose workers would also benefit, she says.

Potluck partnership

Branigan has also partnered with the Potluck Food Co-op, which formed in 2014. People can order food in bulk through the non-profit organization. It also sells local vegetables when they're in season.

Branigan heard the co-op was restricted in its old space because it couldn't sell things such as frozen food or dairy products. She approached board member Bernie Hoeschelle, and they hatched a plan. 

The co-op moved into the new building in December and Hoeschelle said since then it's had its two biggest orders, because it's offering more products.

"This year, 2015, we might break even," he says.

Branigan is a member of the co-op. After her busy summer of selling greenhouse-grown seedlings is in the bag, she wants to buy even more products from the co-op and sell them in her store.

She's envisioning something like a convenience store, "but not the typical convenience store, either, because it's not junk food. It's all healthy food."

The store would sell products from the co-op six days a week. It will also help the co-op fulfill its monthly minimum orders. Branigan says helping the co-op grow will help her.

"I believe that if we all work together, we can support ourselves," she says.

People living in Whitehorse often have to shop 'outside' because not everything is available in the North. But it frustrates Branigan when they look elsewhere for goods that are available locally.

"If you don't support the local people and local business, then you're never going to find anything here because everything is going to close up."