What was once a yacht club in historic Gibsons Landing is now a warm and inviting public hub that connects the community in more ways than one.
Today, the Gibsons Public Market is a space where residents and visitors alike can enjoy great food (from spot prawns to burgers), fresh local produce, local arts and crafts, and a sustainable marine centre -- all the while accessing free community wi-fi on the TELUS award-winning network. Open year round, six days a week, this waterfront market is, in many ways, the heart of the community.
“The public market is here to connect people in order to foster a healthier, more social and caring community. It’s a place for people to come together and build community,” says Vicki Raw, executive director of the Gibsons Community Building Society, a not-for-profit that runs the Gibsons Public Market and Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre.
The public market is home to six local merchants, an award-winning bistro, and many local entrepreneurs, artists and artisans. There are also a number of rental spaces available for individuals, businesses and community organizations. The Gibsons Public Market winter and night markets are a key venue for local business entrepreneurs to showcase their crafts and for guests to support small local vendors. The community kitchen has been adapted for culinary festivals and workshops, while other rooms have previously been appropriated for yoga classes, rotary club meetings, weddings, receptions, and more.
With the support of donors and an annual fundraising gala, bursaries are also made available to non-profits that wish to hold group or community events at the market.
Fostering economic development
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, over 96,000 people visited the market and 12,000 visited the market’s Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre, a collect-hold-release aquarium formed to advance education and protect the environment for the benefit of all by undertaking projects that sustain the marine ecosystem of Átl’ḵa7tsem/Howe Sound, British Columbia and beyond. The collect-hold-release model allows for the exclusive collection of local marine animals, which, after a short stay at the centre, are released back into the local marine environment.
The marine centre’s consistent popularity during a difficult time is what makes Ms. Raw so passionate about the essential role the market plays in the community.
“It allowed local vendors to remain open to the public and created opportunities for artists and entrepreneurs to foster community economic development while adhering to public health guidelines,” she says.
The support offered to entrepreneurs by the market can scarcely be overstated. When a young couple looking to start a restaurant faced delays due to the pandemic, the community kitchen offered a venue where they could launch their business while things stabilized. They were able to prepare to-go meals and teach virtual cooking classes, utilizing the resources and technology offered by the market society team.
The society itself also had to adapt to the impacts of the pandemic.
“We had to reimagine how we deliver programs and connect with people. It was a learning experience,” says Ms. Raw.
Fortunately, the society was able to rely on technology and support from TELUS.
“We have been open almost five years and TELUS has been a partner since the launch of our capital campaign in 2015, allowing us to provide complimentary wi-fi, allow vendors to process payments wirelessly, and connect virtually as a community,” explains Ms. Raw.
A place to gather in a difficult time
TELUS has also been the presenting sponsor of the Gibsons Community Building Society’s annual Gala Fundraiser & Tribute since the beginning. It’s a much-anticipated social event, with funds raised reinvested into the marine education centre, local beach cleanup, educational activities for local elementary schools, public programming and more.
With the significance of the event top of mind, TELUS stepped in to further support the gala throughout the pandemic, allowing the society to pivot to a virtual format. As the market’s long-standing premier technology partner, TELUS was already providing state-of-the-art support through TELUS Business Connect. The tech company enhanced that support for the gala, creating an interactive virtual space, where guests could connect and chat in real time in breakout rooms, in addition to enjoying the live virtual event.
“Our virtual gala was made possible thanks to TELUS Business Connect, and the feedback was amazing,” says Ms. Raw. “On top of that, by going virtual, we were able to have over 260 people attend online, when in-person capacity would previously limit us to 200.”
Critically, this year’s gala also surpassed fundraising goals through the online auction, with tireless support from an energetic crew of volunteers, including many Sunshine Coast TELUS Community Ambassadors. Entrepreneur and innovator Brian Smith was named recipient of the 2021 Darren Entwistle Community Builder Award.
The Gibsons Public Market and Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre are fully operated by Gibsons Community Building Society, which relies heavily on the annual gala for funding as well as the year-round efforts and generosity of volunteers, donors and community partners.
“With TELUS’s help, we figured out how to run a virtual gala where people could feel like they were participating together and reconnecting,” notes Lisa Hilton, chair of the Gala Experience Committee, and a long-time volunteer who was part of the event restructuring. “I can’t stress how crucial the social aspect of the event is. It is part of what makes Gibsons Public Market so special.”
For more information on the Gibsons Public Market and the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre, visit www.gibsonspublicmarket.com.