THE AUGUST MARKET: A DAVID AMONGST MANY GOLIATHS
Gogan Shottha is a David amongst many Goliaths. Opening an independent grocery store in a market overloaded by major chain stores is no easy task. So how is it that The August Market has already won a Golden Plate Award from The Georgia Straight, despite being open for less than a year? The hallmarks of the increasingly popular Main Street grocery store are authenticity, value, and community – qualities that have locals coming back time and time again. And while having fresh, competitively-priced produce is of course a staple of any grocery store, Gogan believes the experience has to be so much more that you would get at some other place. House-made products, a cold-pressed juice bar, and genuinely friendly staff are just some of the reasons why The August Market is pleasantly different than the rest. Oh, and they want you to know they’re “Not as expensive as you think.”
Join us as we go Behind The Counter for a Q&A with Gogan Shottha of The August Market.
TEAMCHOMP: Gogan, it’s great to finally talk to you about The August Market. How did everything get started and, for the first timers, what should people expect at The August Market?
Gogan: I managed a friend’s family business and loved it. It was an invaluable education. It helped me feel confident enough in my abilities to feel like I could make my life be about all of the things I believed in. Most first timers comment on how nice the store looks and how they thought it would be a lot more expensive because of that. They’re surprised at how affordable our prices are. You can expect to have an enjoyable conversation and join the community we’re building here one person at a time.
How would you compare The August Market versus the major chains?
We have personality. We have humanity. We genuinely are about the people rather than money. Money is a by-product of our service. The staff, the customers, the vendors and myself are my main concern. A number in my bank account isn’t. Whenever I make a decision my first thought is what benefit will this provide to people and second is how can I make it practical in my current situation. We’re in it for the long term. We aim for every single transaction you make here to be for your good. And that requires a back and forth conversation rather than us marketing to people based on their ignorance. We’re learning about ourselves as much as we’re learning about you.
How do you decide what type of product ends up on the shelves?
We try them. We take customer suggestions. If it excites us or others, it’s worth putting on our shelves and seeing the feedback. We listen. The August Market is my life, so I connect everything back to the store. My mind races with ways to connect conversations I have or overhear with ways to improve the store and the things we sell. When you’re all in, your creativity goes into overdrive. I’m not afraid to try things that aren’t typical because I feel like our growth doesn’t have to be typically linear. One successful attempt can make up for 100 experiments we decided weren’t worth further investment.
What are some of the most unique grocery items that you carry?
We make our own cold pressed juices which you can’t find anywhere else yet. As soon as our new juicer arrives, our juices will be on tap. Currently, we have three flavours. But again, once the new juicer is here, the number of flavours will expand. We also make our own almond milk which will be on tap as well. We make a vegan butter chicken sauce which is absolutely delicious and great over tofu or tempeh or whatever else you can imagine. Bucha Brew, Raincoast Kombucha, Biota, Standard Kombucha and Dickie’s Ginger are all on tap. 720 sweets exclusively sells their pints of ice cream here. We carry Nomad restaurant’s roasted red pepper and black garlic hummus exclusively as well. And I am currently in talks with House Special, a new Vietnamese restaurant downtown, to get some of their food in here as grab-and-go items. We carry Club Mate soda and Matero, which is Vancouver’s answer to the notorious German beverage. Le Meadow’s Grapefruit marmalade is to die for, Pure Bone Broth is incredible and Good Nature granola is delicious.
Being a neighborhood-style market, do you work with the local community?
Yeah, absolutely. I am trying to organize food donations through the Little Mountain Neighbourhood house. In the past, we worked with Bumpin Bakery, high school students who made and handed out food on Sundays. I try to support local businesses as much as possible by referring them to anyone who comes into our store – whether most people would consider them competition or not. In my mind, [having] a ton of thriving businesses in the area only drives more traffic for everyone’s benefit, customer and businesses alike. I would love to buy product from local restaurants to sell retail at the store and sell local restaurants produce at low prices. It’s happening, but I want to work with more restaurants. We’ve thrown one art show here involving the local artist community. I’d love to throw more events. I would love to have other local small business sponsors to promote their brands. Once I have a bit more time I want to visit all of the Main Street businesses and form personal relationships.
We heard about your fresh cold pressed juices, can you tell us more about it?
They are delicious cold pressed juices made with fresh produce we sell at the store. We’ve got all the ingredients at our finger tips to make pretty much any flavour we can think of. Currently, we have three staple flavours: Apple, lemon, ginger (which is a crowd-pleaser and sells the fastest); Pineapple, apple, mint is more of a luxurious treat; and Beet, carrot, apple, lime is a perfect thirst quencher that’s wholesome and earthy and [it] leaves you feeling like a million bucks.
What are some of the upcoming plans for The August Market?
We really want to expand our on-tap beverages selection. We’ve got some really cool ideas with what we want to do with our second floor loft space and we’ll be throwing an event called “The First August” some time in August as a kind of grand opening event. We opened last year in September due to finalizing permits and such rather than in August like we planned, so it will be a great party for us.
The August Market:
3958 Main Street, Vancouver, BC
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