New eco-friendly business opens in downtown Blaine

Posted

Visitors speak with staff, including general manager Christy Lonquist pictured right. Photos by Louise Mugar

Rawganique offers natural fiber clothing, organic home products and a vegan cafe

By Stefanie Donahue

After more than two decades of selling organic, chemical-free clothing and household products out of Denman Island, B.C., the owners of retailer Rawganique (pronounced raw-gan-eek) opened their only brick-and-mortar location on September 10 in downtown Blaine.

The new business is located at 429 Peace Portal Drive, formerly a Subway restaurant, and is setup like a showroom with an array of products available for purchase in-store and online. The shop also features a cafe serving vegan food, coffee, pastries and ice cream.

“What we’re [offering] is a lifestyle store,” said co-founder Qeanu Wallner. Their products, he added, impact “the way you eat, the way you are clothed and the way you treat people.”

Wallner started Rawganique with Quo Yong Fu while homesteading on Denman Island in 1997.

Living off the land, the pair made their own bed sheets, socks and towels due to their own chemical sensitivities and blogged about it along the way. Their work caught traction online and they eventually became a source for people who wanted to learn more about chemical-free living.

“A lot of people took a great interest in what we were doing,” Wallner said. “That surprised me.”

Rawganique is open at 429 Peace Portal Drive. Courtesy photo

Rawganique specializes in selling organic cotton, flax linen and hemp products that are manufactured sustainably in the United States, Canada and Romania.

Currently, there are an estimated 1,200 clothing and household products for sale on the retailer’s website, Wallner said, including bedding, men’s and women’s clothing, kids’ clothing and footwear.

Wallner and Fu want their products to reach individuals who are either sensitive to chemicals or who prefer clothing that’s free of chemicals, such as formaldehyde (often used to reduce wrinkles) and dioxins (often used as a preservative).

“We are real, passionate people creating hand-crafted clothing and organic products on a small scale,” reads a post from Wallner and Fu on their website. “We don’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to making natural fiber wearables that are cruelty-free, hypo-allergenic, ethical and sustainable.”

Up until 2015, the pair operated a retail store on Denman Island. They relocated to Point Roberts, but because of building restrictions decided to purchase the retail store at 429 Peace Portal Drive and a warehouse at 270 C Street last summer.

Rawganique was busy on opening day.

“Blaine is refreshingly international in outlook,” Wallner said in a statement. “We definitely felt the eco-conscious vibes when we visited and have met so many like-minded people here that we feel right at home.”

After weeks of renovation, the retail store is almost unrecognizable on the inside; it now features expansive views of Semiahmoo Bay, bamboo flooring and natural wood table tops.

Hundreds of items are on display and can be purchased at the store or online if certain sizes or quantities aren’t available. If items are purchased online, they can be quickly delivered to customers from the warehouse, which is located just a few blocks away.

The vegan cafe offers salads, soups, small-batch ice cream and dishes made with a mix of raw ingredients like quinoa, greens and beans. Silva Gore of Blaine’s former Seaside Bakery and Café makes the pastries.

Eventually, Wallner and Fu hope to open the space to local artisans to teach traditional crafts and display their products.

“They want to show that it’s still possible for anyone to learn a skill and make ropes, shoes, soap, paper and weave, sew, knit and crochet using organic natural fibers and chemical-free techniques,” read a press release from the city. “They hope to show that there’s an alternative to importing unnatural, sweatshop products.”

By relocating to Blaine, Rawganique added six jobs and expects to add at least five more. Christy Lonquist, who formerly owned the Pastime Bar and Eatery with her husband Rodny, is the general manager.

“I just like the concept of this store,” she said. “The spirit of this company is so upbeat.”

All containers at the vegan cafe are compostable.

Just prior to the business opening, staff with the city welcomed the business to Blaine.

“We’re seeing a renaissance of sorts in our downtown right now and Rawganique is a key part of that,” said city manager Michael Jones in a statement. “Places are opening, expanding and changing. Restaurant choices are important to visitors and our options keep expanding.”

Mayor Bonnie Onyon added, “People need places to stop, learn and discover new things to have a reason to stay awhile and meet people. Retail does that and Rawganique will add an exciting lifestyle venue and point of interest for visitors and locals alike.”

A grand opening ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday, September 28.

To learn more about Rawganique, visit rawganique.com.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

OUR PUBLICATIONS