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Unexpected challenges force Tare Shop to ask for community help

Owner Kate Pepler recently launched a crowd-funding campaign to help overcome the financial pressure caused by past COVID-19 lockdowns and supply chain issues
Halifax The Tare Shop
The Tare Shop is located on the corner of Creighton and Cornwallis streets in Halifax

A local business aimed at making zero-waste living more possible for Halifax-area residents is struggling to bounce back after two years of pandemic restrictions.

With its two locations in Halifax and Dartmouth, The Tare Shop has been very successful since it opened its original outlet on Cornwallis Street in 2018, but owner Kate Pepler says Nova Scotia’s first package-free grocery store and coffee shop has been faced with unprecedented challenges due to COVID-19.

“A huge part of our success at the Halifax store when we first opened was directly related to our café and coffee shop, and obviously last year we weren’t allowed to have people sitting in our space and hanging out,” says Pepler, adding that while she acknowledges the need for the restrictive public health measures, the cost of months of revenue loss has piled up.

Supply chain issues and demand have also been an unforeseen challenge — particularly since their model requires them to purchase goods up front.

“We’ve been caught in a vicious circle where we have been having really low sales, (so) we haven’t been able to purchase inventory, and we need to have inventory to have the sales,” adds Pepler.  “We have been caught in that kind of cycle.”

Pepler had already planned to launch a Dartmouth location when COVID-19 showed up in Nova Scotia, causing the provincial government to restrict public gathering limits. As such, the Portland Street shop struggled to gain traction with local shoppers.

“I feel like in the last couple weeks, we have been seeing some more window shoppers, if you will,” says Pepler. “People wandering in where we definitely didn’t have that for two years.”

As a result of The Tare Shop’s struggles, Pepler has been forced to ask for help as a last ditch attempt to save the unique Halifax business. 

However, instead of relying on money lenders or taking on new investors, she decided to launch a crowd-funding campaign that she hopes will help raise the $40,000 she says she needs to get the business back on its feet.

“I was reminded that we do have a really strong community that’s always been behind us and supported us,” says Pepler about starting the campaign. “Entrepreneurship can be a lonely, isolating thing — you can feel like you are the only one who is going through these issues or you have nobody to turn to, but that isn’t the case (so I) decided to ask the community to invest in us.”

Pepler is pleased to say that support has been reassuring — with nearly half of her goal being met within 24 hours of launching the campaign. However, at the time of this article, she is still far from obtaining the necessary funds for survival.

“This (money) will allow us to bring in the new inventory that we just haven’t had the cash flow to bring in for most of our purchases,” explains Pepler of where the support will be directed. She adds the recent surge of inflation around the globe has only increased that pressure.

“I feel like everybody is noticing their receipts at the grocery store are higher now,” continues Pepler. “So we are definitely seeing that as well on our suppliers end.”

Since Pepler opened The Tare Shop in 2018, it has become an iconic, important local business and community hub.

More importantly, its environmental impact has been nothing but impressive. Among the plastic items The Tare Shop has helped divert from waste streams are nearly 30,000 cups and bottles, and more than 666,000 plastic bags and containers.

“Prior to us opening, you couldn’t buy products without plastic packaging,” adds Pepler. “So we are here to offer people a place to shop package-free, to (lessen) an impact on the environment and to support our community — that’s a huge part of what we do.”

With the crowd-funding campaign, Pepler aims to restore The Tare Shop with the public’s help. She hopes people will respond with even a small contribution and has structured the fundraiser to help match donations with purchasing power.

Pepler says contributors who donate to the campaign will receive a Tare Shop gift card equal to the amount of their donation, as her intention isn’t to turn a profit so much as to simply get the business back on its feet.

“I’m speechless with the support that we have received so far,” adds Pepler. “I don’t like asking for help, I don’t like to admit when I’m struggling, but I’m grateful that I did reach out. I’ve been flooded with so many nice messages from friends and family and customers and other business owners — it’s been incredible!”

For more information on The Tare Shop’s crowd-funding campaign, visit the website.


Steve Gow

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