GOODS & SERVICES ON SALTSPRING & GALIANO ISLANDS B.C.
On 2012.09.23 I updated this to my latest but out of date knowledge.
(some TOC links may not be complete)
I don't know many of these businesses personally, but suggest those who standing out from the crowd, and point to a few that re sub-standard.
Information in this list may not be up to date.
Any Galiano information will be at the end of a section.
(While SSI has a reputation as Hippy Haven, full of activists and other people whose epistemology is one of paranoid delusions, I suspect it has the usual mix of people. It has great businesses and poor businesses and confused businesses. It has great people and scum.)
- DEPARTMENT STORES
- HARDWARE/BUILDING SUPPLIES
One established realtor on Saltspring is Fiona Walls.
Beware that accommodation is in short supply, especially during the summer. You need to arrange it before you arrive, or be prepared to bail out to Duncan or the Greater Victoria area to spend the night. Fortunately the ferry to Crofton runs frequently and the ferry to Swartz Bay runs every two hours - but don't depend on catching the last sailing as it may be full.
The reason for short supply, in addition to seasonality of demand and surges from large construction projects and festivals on an island of modest regular population, is the strength of NIMBYs/CAVES in politics on the islands. It is so bad that elderly people who were renting their home out in the summer to help pay the very high taxes, while living in an out-building (often their original cottage), are unable to do so. NIMBYism is of course fundamentally dishonest - attempting to freeze time at someone else's expense instead of purchasing land or organizing a collective development with agreed terms. On SSI many of the control freaks are relative newcomers, those who've been there for decades often have absorbed reality more thus are more fair to others.
Frequent visitors may want to buy their own place. There is some land available for building away from the water, whereas water front home property is very expensive.
Sabine's was one of the world's best book stores. A comfortable well-kept place, very well run. I'd call it a medium-sized bookstore, especially as it was well organized and tries hard to keep a good selection of books rather than just buying what shows up on the doorstep.
However Sabine sold it to new owners who seemed to be complaining instead of producing. Last I was there they were surviving, still a quite good book store.
Wasn't impressed with other book stores on SSI, but for outdoor activities the one across the main road from Thrifty Foods seemed reasonable, might have a bit of a newstand as well.
For newspapers, I encounter:
- the well-established Driftwood, weekly, the one to get for most news and ads.
- the very marxist Island Tides (though they are better journalists when they leave their hard-activist hat off - they dig out facts better than the Driftwood).
- a free-ad paper
And a radio station was being planned.
Down a side street near the ferry terminal at Sturdies Bay is a clean organized bookstore, selling mostly new books, whose proprieter seems to care.
Beware that coin laundry prices on SSI are 50% higher than Victoria and Vancouver. I suggest the one in front of Moby's pub as the better of the two I know of - open 7:00am to 10:00 pm, sharp, with a shower that may be restricted to mooring customers.
In the strip mall behind the gas station south of the waterfront park is a full-service coin laundry with a coin shower. It seems to vary in how well kept it is.
There is a laundry service on the street that Imagen is on, one street north of the old library, but AFAIK they are not self-serve.
In addition to the various boutiques and stores in downtown Ganges, noteably the well-run Mark's store on the main road (help them afford a better sign :-). The Fields or such mini department store on the northwest corner of Ganges near the Village Market grocery store is no more.
And there are a few thrift stores, one is tucked away behind the building that the Golden Island restaurant is in.
This section is especially likely to be out of date.
Imagen Internet and the stationary store on the main road out of Ganges to the south have some accessories and supplies, and can rent time. Imagen and "The Source" (formerly "Radio Shack") might be able to sell you a computer - and the latter now has a good Internet kiosk. Either may have wireless Internet service. (The very good public library also has, but it is not reliable.)
The stationary store has an adequate stock. The owner works hard and does many smart things, but needs a better perspective on customers - Iíve been left in the lurch due to inadequate maintenance of her computer software.
The Pharmasave to the northwest of downtown Ganges had a coin operated self-serve copier but they were unwilling to get it serviced correctly, probably no longer there.
There is no longer a Fields store on the main road out of Ganges toward Vesuvious.
The combination of Mark's Workwear and Moatt's hardware/housewares store helps fill that gap at higher prices and better quality.
The arts centre often has painting shows. The whiners are complaining about it, but Hey! it is there and usable - not bad for a small population - and the whiners did not pay for much of itís cost.
The senior secondary school has good arts programs, and there are private arts education programs, so I'd expect some public performances from them.
And there's a small movie hall at the junction of the roads to Vesuvious and St. Mary's lake.
Check for a musical show at the arts centre on July 1st, somewhat variable but I heard the best guitar picker ever.
I doubt that watching wierd locals, tourists, and fancy yachts does not count as entertainment. Well, maybe as a reason to stay outside on a sunny day. :-)
People get excercise walking to town, especially before the transit service began.
Walking is hazardous because most roads on SSI lack adequate shoulders.
But you can find parks, like Ruckles.
The large grocery stores on SSI are not run well enough. Thrifty's tries to put its normal features in a store that is far too small - it just does not work and could be hazardous. Country Grocer/Village Market is sloppy, including having computer system errors, but their deli is probably of broader interest than Thriftyís (who go for real fancy things, though they have some hard-to-find things such as East Indian dishes). Unfortunately there is a widespread attitude and competence problem among backend/lead/manager positions there, especially for general grocery. (In contrast the cashiers care.)
I suggest trying the independent store near the south end of Ganges. Their selection is limited, especially for fresh foods which they now have even less of, but they try and are open somewhat later in the evening. (They have had difficulty keeping the store up due injury.)
There is a significant store in Fulford Harbour where the ferry from Victoria docks, a convenience store near the Golden Island restaurant in Ganges - beats me how they survive with country Grocer a block away - and another near the Vesuvious ferry terminal to Crofton. And Surprise! one near the liquor store in Ganges.
And if you travel by vehicle off of the island you can purchase elsewhere - even from the same chains. (Thrifty's is in Mill Bay and Sidney, and Country Grocer in Cobble Hill and Nanaimo, plus good Safeways in Duncan and Sidney. And a worthwhile-looking produce stand on the freeway north of Duncan at the turnoff to Crofton.)
The Golden Island Chinese restaurant in Ganges is very good, not expensive. It does not try to be all things to all people, though has chicken strips for children. At Chinese New Year they get serious with a special set dinner - you'll need to book well ahead. It is on the northwest side of town on the main road toward Vesuvious.
And the restaurant at Vesuvius, the ferry terminal to Crofton near Duncan, has good fish & chips as well as fancier food. However I recommend against it because the passageway to the main seating area is a head-basher and they do not care to fix it.
The Embe Bakery on the south edge of Ganges is worthwhile though expensive - now with both takeout and sit-down capability, including sandwiches, soups, etc. with good service. A convenient place to stop coming in and out of town.
Look for the Korean family running a Sushi place on the south edge of the park in downtown Ganges, in the strip mall behind the gas station. Worth seeing. Much bento-box style food, plus soup, I hope they add cooked vegetable-noodle dishes. (Hey, it is globalization - people and cultures mixing. ;-)
There is a nice looking restaurant on the west side of the main street through Ganges, abeam the Thrifty's/Moats complex.
Beware that some restaurants are seasonal.
SSI does need a McDonalds. (That'll get the activists hopping. :-) But hey!, McDonalds provides consistent nutrition at a reasonable price. What is wrong with that?
FOOD on GALIANO ISLAND
The Corner Store is run by someone who no longer cares. Inadequate selection of fresh food, store is crowded and dirty. Probably survives on liquor sales.
But across the street is "The Market", run by people who care. Very good produce, clean, organized. May no longer have a sit-down cafe, but does serve prepared sandwiches and probably liquid refreshments to take out. Apparently it began small, as many successful businesses did - as a produce service.
At the ferry terminal at Sturdies Bay is a kiosk serving spicy Indonesian food, plus some German and Canadian food. Apparently successful and long-lived.
For building supplies and some plumbing and electrical, Windsor Plywood cares and performs. Slegg's seems better recently but it is a Slegg's - no need to say more.
For hardware, including plumbing and electrical, Moat's is fine (the store is too small to hold all they should have - but they have a lot and most of the plentiful staff care, though they can no longer be depended on to copy simple keys accurately.).
There's a modest sand-gravel-brick place on the road from Ganges to Fulford.
And the cement plant west of Ganges has sand and gravel, with helpful staff.
For a junk pile, go north on Robinson road - on the left at a bend is a place, doing dual duty as a UHaul rent-a-truck agency.
There are many independent tradesmen on SSI. Quality and integrity seems to vary as much as anywhere. Look for the local phone directory, sold by the Lions service club every year.
SSI was settled fairly early in BC history, and was for a time a prime source of foods like fruit. (Today fruit growing is primarily a hobby, with some orchards having dozens of unusual varieties.)
Aboriginal peoples lived on SSI some decades, but had trouble with warring tribes from the north so abandoned it except for summer harvesting.
There is a hospital, with a helicopter landing pad. (The other physically sizable islands, such as Galiano, have a few on-call medical personnel but may struggle to keep a doctor (their population is much less).
Pharmasave has two locations in Ganges. Staff are very good but attention to detail in shelf signage and maintenance of equipment is lacking.
I'm sure you can find a beach to watch sunset/sunrise. :-)
Figure out how to get to the top of one of the very large hills on SSI and you should have a good view.
Watch out for mis-representation of "Salt Spring Island Dollars", a local "currency". (Legally only gift certificates.) It may be a reasonable program, whose purpose is a charitable benefit, but some of its promoters have mis-represented it as Canadian currency and the organization's "backed by Canadian currency" claim needs study. (Apparently they have removed one barrier, at the cost of revenue, by eliminating the previously short expiry period.) I recommend charity on chosen values not such collectivism.
Roads are narrow, unfortunately without adequate shoulders for pedestrians.
There's now a transit system, well run by the lady who started a private bus between ferry terminals and Ganges (the Faerie Express or such). Schedules should be on http://www.bctransit.com. They emphasize Fulford-Ganges, plus a loop around Ganges, and (I am told) now run to Long Harbour to support at least some ferry times.
And there are variable taxi service(s).
There is an auto parts store. If you walk in the front door you may have to yell to get served as they have that horrid practice of answering the phone instead of serving those in front of them - but service is much better now. Worthwhile, claim ability to get parts from off-island fairly quickly as they are part of the J&B Auto Parts Group in the Victoria area.
Beware that many businesses on Saltspring Island close on long weekends - just when a fresh batch of potential customers are arriving. Exceptions I note are:
- Laurie's garbage service on the road past the hospital (in contrast to the recycling society and the garbage transfer station which close).
- grocery stores, in contrast to lumber stores
- Sabines bookstore, in contrast to the Radio Shack/Source store.
Also be aware that Saltspring is not free of crime. Seriously bad behaviour in downtown Ganges is a problem RCMP are working on though I am wary that they understand where to draw the line, vehicles are stolen for joyriding, thefts and assaults occur, etc.
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© Keith Sketchley. Page version 2012.09.23
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