Red Barn Market began in 2002 as a “simple local farm stand” selling local produce at its West Saanich location north of Victoria, BC. It was purchased in 2009 by a group of entrepreneurs looking to expand the local, community-driven farmers’ market experience on offer to their customers, and has since grown to seven locations in the Greater Victoria area. The original West Saanich market, located in an agricultural area of the province, had always sold livestock feed (and a small selection of pet food) as part of its offerings. After the change in ownership in 2009, Tracy Dow was brought in as the new manager of the animal feed and pet food centre at this location. “After 20 years working in the floral and garden centre industries, I was looking for more of a challenge,” Tracy explains. “I knew absolutely nothing about animal feed or pet food, so basically for the last 12 years I’ve researched any time I can get, and any information that comes to me I try to absorb so that I can pass it along to my staff.”
When Tracy first started at Red Barn, there was very little focus on pet food, with the majority of the retail space allocated to animal feed. Realizing that the margins on animal feed were much lower than for pet food, Tracy made the decision to switch the retail focus to the pet food market, utilizing the large on-site feed barn to help store and display a very large pet section. “It’s an ever-evolving process,” Tracy says. “We’re always analyzing data and seeing what works best at our locations. We’ve been very successful with it.”
Remaining true to its farmers market roots, supporting local continues to be a key principle of the Red Barn Market concept, along with providing good value for customers within the market friendly experience. “It’s always been about trying to have the biggest selection of Canadian-made products, rather than outsourcing,” Tracy says. “And we want to give the best value that we can, but without sacrificing the quality.” When it comes to pet food, Tracy focuses on high-quality products, and encourages her customers to look at the ingredients in what they’re buying and see what best fits their needs. “I think it’s all about the education,” she says. Her store has stocked Smack Pet Foods for close to eight years - their Canadian-made product, along with the clean ingredient panel, “sealed the deal right away”. Recognizing the advantages of Smack’s nutrient-dense food (“with Smack you actually feed so little because it’s so packed with nutrients”), Tracy appreciates being able to show her customers that “it doesn’t necessarily cost a lot of money to feed a good product.”
Red Barn Market is proud of its mission to support the local community and local food economy, focusing on Canadian-made products that offer quality and value to their customers, whose own support of their local markets remains consistently loyal. As Tracy says, “at the end of the day, as long as your heart is in it and in the right place, I think people will see that and keep coming back.”
"At the end of the day, as long as your heart is in it and in the right place, I think people will see that and keep coming back."