A business owner in North Vancouver has lost more than $350,000 in equipment and space after her business was destroyed during one of the Masonic Hall fires last week.
Feed Me Fit is a plant-based meal-delivery service that was located in the same building as the Duke of Connaught Lodge (North Vancouver Masonic Centre). On the morning of March 30, the building was engulfed in flames by an arsonist.
Venessa Stonehouse, the owner of Feed Me Fit, tells Daily Hive that she lost everything in the blaze. In previous years, the business occupied the back area of the retail space, but construction was about to begin to build a plant-based cafe. Stonehouse also ran a second plant-based meat alternative business out of the space.
“We’ve been on Lonsdale since 2015,” she explains in an interview. “We just occupied the back of the store; the front was a supplement store pre-COVID. We had just taken over the whole store, and we were starting to do construction the day of the fire.”
Stonehouse says that the blaze resulted in a “complete loss” and that “everything is completely gone.”
“Every single thing that I’ve accumulated over the past six years was in there,” she says. “Physically, there’s all of that loss. I’m just going over things now and trying to rebuy everything, but there are things I’ll just never get back.”
Due to the pandemic, Stonehouse adjusted her insurance policy to cover only the large equipment and machinery. Her meal-delivery service, already struggling because of the last year, has now taken an additional loss of over $350,000.
“We were definitely struggling. That’s why I pivoted the business to be a plant-based meat alternative business instead of just meal delivery. I was just trying to make use of the space by providing a product-based business rather than a service-based business. But I was just making it by. I was just paying the bills.”
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Fortunately, the Royal Canadian Legion in Lynn Valley has allowed Stonehouse to use their kitchen at no cost. Until she is able to find a warehouse or production facility to rebuild, Stonehouse says she will base operations out of the location.
A GoFundMe has since been launched by one of her close friends, with hopes of recovering the cost of the losses.
“She was one of the first people to find out about the fire while I was still watching it burn.”
In addition to the donations, Stonehouse says that the kind messages from the community have really helped her push forward.
“The only thing that’s kept me going the past week is seeing everyone’s messages, shares, and donations. I’m so grateful for that. I definitely took my few days to sulk, but I’m not letting this stop the business. We were on such a good momentum for the plant-based meat business. I feel like I just can’t let that go; I’ve worked way too hard.”
Specifically, Stonehouse will be using money from the fundraiser to repurchase equipment that she lost in the fire. She’s also looking into any available grants that can help expedite the process.
“I just want everyone to know how grateful I am. It was defeating, to say the least, but everyone’s support really made a difference. I don’t think people realize what one word or one sentence can mean.”