Thirty years ago this month, Catherine Cole was pregnant and working at The Great Vine’s original location. When she and husband Ken learned that owner Carol Guin was selling, they decided to take a chance on a new venture.
Now, they’re glad they did.
They have since poured their heart and soul into the business, building a huge community and developing close relationships with many loyal customers.
“I am so proud of us and it’s clear that everything happens for a reason. I never thought we would be here but our community needs Catherine and she has given Huntsville her life’s work,” said Ken.
Although the couple had a background in the music and theatre industry before moving to Muskoka, they also had a passion for health food and homeopathy.
In its early days, The Great Vine mainly sold bulk foods and spices, and had a large section of holistic books and cassette tapes.
In 2000, Catherine and Ken opened a restaurant beside the store called Off the Vine where they served international cuisine, hand-pressed juices, and even avocado toast before it became popular.
Today, they still offer bulk foods and spices but have expanded to offer a selection of unique groceries, supplements, clothing, and jewellery.
Catherine has spent her career building interpersonal relationships with customers and offering priceless advice to those who come to her.
“I thrive off of meaningful connections and I have such passion for growing and learning,” she said. “When I look back at our life I never thought this was where we’d end up but it has truly been a privilege to be able to spend every day with this community. We have such an amazing, educated customer base and we learn just as much from them as they do from us. Being here has changed their lives but it’s safe to say they are changing ours too.”
The pair have also developed strong relationships with their staff members, who have also been dedicated to educating the community.
“The Great Vine is like a family to me,” said Nicole Phippen, who has been an employee at The Great Vine on and off for 29 years. “I have Christmas dinner with them, I babysat their kids and cats. They are my people. We laugh, cry together. I’ve gone off and done other things but I always come back because they are my community. The Great Vine is home to me.”
In celebration of The Great Vine’s 30th anniversary, Catherine and Ken are giving away a prize every day in the month of August. All you have to do is stop in the store to fill out a ballot.
There are also two grand prizes to be won: two tickets to see Serena Ryder on August 24th, and a package valued at $1,000 that includes both Downtown Dollars and an assortment of goodies from The Great Vine. To enter to win a grand prize, you’ll need to complete a trivia sheet. Some of the answers can be found in this article.
The Great Vine is located at 36 Main Street E.
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