In 2011, arts writer Stephen Smysnuik wondered in the pages of Pique if Function Junction had become Whistler’s SoHo. While I’m not quite ready to put the resort’s southern-most neighbourhood on that level (we still need a few more years of gentrification and skyrocketing real estate prices for that honour), there’s no question that Function is on the up and up.
In the past few years alone, the ever-changing neighbourhood has added another award-winning brewery, a café, a pizza parlour, a vintage shop/vegan eatery and even an adult play space in the form of The Hangar. On Monday, Feb. 17, you can add boutique espresso bar and grocery store to that list with the opening of Forecast Coffee in the former Olives Community Market space.
Jim Salusbury of 49 North Foods Co. purchased the store last May from long-time owners Angela Perzow and Chris Pelz, and he has spent the past nine months listening to customers on what they wanted from Function’s lone grocery store.
The one thing he heard again and again? More affordable groceries.
“I think what people wanted, what we were hearing was more value-priced options, things that were a bit more affordable, a bit more mainstream, your everyday staple products for groceries,” Salusbury said.
“There are some great local products here, so we wanted to support local by bringing in those kinds of products. We’re still going to work with our Pemberton farmers for our produce in the summer, so things like that we will definitely keep organic and local, but we’ve also been blending in a lot of mainstream staple items: your cereals, your pastas, your normal things that you buy every day.”
Groceries now take up less square footage on one side of the newly renovated shop, with the other side boasting an expansive espresso bar, with long-table seating and comfy leather couches. A wall has also been knocked down to open up the kitchen, and a four-metre window has been added to the northern-facing wall to bring more light into the space.
“We completely gutted it and started from scratch,” Salusbury said. “We really wanted it to be a very warm, inviting, cozy place to just come and hang out.”
Along with an expanded coffee menu—including bags of Forecast-branded coffee beans made in conjunction with East Van’s Agro Roasters—the shop will feature a greater emphasis on ready-made items. That means breakfast buns and pastries for breakfast, and a selection of curries, rice bowls and noodle dishes for lunch to go along with the homemade soups, sandwiches and salads that Olives was known for.
“A lot of Olives’ business was actually the lunch; all of our Function locals here come in for lunch. They wanted a grab-and-go option for lunch that was more than just a sandwich,” Salusbury noted.
A chartered accountant by trade, Salusbury left the Vancouver firm he started several years back to enter the food-service industry. In 2016, he, along with a partner, purchased Lift Coffee Co. and Gone Eatery from Wayne Katz, so he’s no stranger to the Whistler food scene. (He now owns those businesses outright.)
He also knows full well the challenge that can come with balancing a sustainable business against the wants of a clientele loyal to their beloved haunts.
“It’s one of those things where we’ve got to structure the business properly and keep it healthy so we can stay in business, but be always trying to exceed customers' expectations and create great products and delicious menu items for everyone,” Salusbury explained. “It’s just a lot of our team collecting feedback from customers, a lot of people in our company talking and brainstorming and trying to come up with great products, but then trying to, in the background, put some systems in place that actually work as well.”
Forecast will also include a philanthropic component, with Salusbury committing to earmark one per cent of sales for community and environmental initiatives. He’s also hopeful to start hosting events that speak to the heart of the resort community.
“A big part of this change with Forecast Coffee is creating a big open space, and we’d like to get an event calendar going and have it as a community space where we can host events and talks, get involved in the community and the environment and start putting some money back into the community,” Salusbury said.
For more information, visit forecastcoffee.ca.