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West Van business bears fruit
When one door closes, another one opens – and in the wake of the surprise shuttering of the Safeway at Marine Drive and 16th Street on June 30, some West Van residents have been excited to discover the new apple of their eye.
Walk a couple blocks east along Marine, and you’ll find Jason Yang at Neighbor’s Choice Farm Market. Young and eager, Jason has made it his mission to nourish the North Shore and beyond through a combination of fresh, local produce and a healthy appetite for charity.
After immigrating to Canada from the Hunan province of China in 2002, Jason worked as a buyer at Kin’s Farm Market. There, he learned how to source everything from asparagus to zucchini, and left to open his own business in late December of last year.
Neighbor’s Choice is open seven days a week this summer, and Jason faithfully makes the long commute from Richmond to West Van early each morning.
He tries to stay as late as possible to accommodate his customers, so 15-hour work days are routine and vacations scarce.
How does this industrious entrepreneur do it? Through discipline and a heartfelt desire to help others, for he describes his work as a duty: “Our goal is to serve the neighbourhood, especially our senior customers.”
Sensitive to the needs of his elderly clientele, Jason offers free home delivery and 10 per cent off on “Senior Sundays”.
For their further convenience, he recently expanded his stock to include dairy products, and gladly orders specialty items such as lactose-free milk and all-natural peanut butter by request. “I want [Neighbor’s Choice] to be a one-time stop,” he explained.
But Jason’s altruism isn’t limited to the North Shore; he also contributes to his friend Jim Duggan’s humanitarian efforts on the Downtown Eastside.
Two months after Jason set up shop, Jim contacted him and asked to buy some produce for Vancouver’s most needy communities.
Jason’s response? Happily using his wholesale purchasing power to source and deliver Jim’s orders at no monetary gain.
When the two Js first visited the Downtown Eastside, Jason was “really shocked” at the extent of poverty, and thought to himself: “This is Vancouver, this is Canada – how could it be?” Jason now donates two to three times per month, and this dynamic duo supplies Sir William MacDonald Elementary, Strathcona Community Centre, Ray-Cam Co-operative Centre and Thunderbird Elementary, among others. Since their start in March, Jim and Jason’s contributions have totalled an impressive 240 cases of choice produce.
“I want to deliver number one quality [to the DTES]. They deserve to eat the same way we eat,” Jason added.
When it comes to nutrition, Jason always strives for the cream of the crop. He suggests eating seven to 10 kinds of fruits and veggies per day for optimal health, and attests that adopting this diet has kept him going through his long working hours.
“If you promote produce, you know you’re giving the customer [a] healthy choice... it’s good for you, good for everybody,” he affirmed.
The community is responding, as indicated by the proliferation of Neighbor’s Choice signature green totes among Jason’s many repeat customers.
This environmentally-friendly freebie is a refreshing and attractive alternative to the utilitarian plastic bags sold at most chain grocery stores.
“We want to be different and give back,” he noted, pointing out that the colourful branding also signifies loyalty: “We know we have happy customers [who are] proud to carry [the bags].”
Jason’s vision for the future of Neighbor’s Choice is as pure and simple as his products: to “constantly improve” his services and provide “as much help as possible” to the community.
Raising awareness for his business and charity initiatives by manning tables at events such as West Van’s 100th birthday in Ambleside Park and the John Lawson Park Canada Day celebrations is a good start.
Next, he plans to contribute supplies to West Van’s Seniors’ Activity Centre for a hale and hearty summer barbecue.
“This is just the beginning of our new venture,” concluded Jason – and here’s hoping there’s much more to come from this self-starter.
Neighbor's Choice is located at 1476 Marine Drive. Find out more at facebook.com/NeighborsChoice.
For more on the Downtown Eastside Produce Project, visit its Facebook page.