Kicking off the start of the holiday season in the heart of downtown Kitchener, popular grocery store Legacy Greens hosted a “Christmas Open House” on Nov. 30, bringing together local vendors and offering complimentary hot apple cider and refreshments for customers to enjoy on the upper floor of their store.

Legacy Greens opened up their space for Acre75.ca, an e-commerce site specializing in products from small towns across Canada. Owner, Virginia Ehrlich, promoted their quarterly subscription boxes and Christmas inventory, while Young Huron, a store centred on hand-stamped brass and crystal jewelry, also set up shop.

The event showcased the store’s emphasis on building relationships with other local business owners, and working together to maintain a healthy commercial presence in the DTK area.

This year, they offered something new: a donation-oriented gift wrapping service, complete with accents of dried citrus, present tags, boxwood, eucalyptus, paper bags, newspaper, cinnamon sticks, dried apples and twine, to personalize each gift.

“I’m really into aesthetics: I like using natural aesthetics in packaging, gift-wrapping, design,” said Jordan Dolson, owner and proprietor of Legacy Greens.

The proceeds will be donated to oneROOF, a youth services organization dedicated to providing assistance and resources to youth who are experiencing or are at-risk of homelessness.

The motivation for this, Dolson said, came from the perspective she’s gained since she began operating her own store.

As a business owner in downtown Kitchener for four and a half years and a former resident of Vancouver she had first hand knowledge of the issues.

“I’ve seen the reality of living in the urban core, and some of the hardships that people are dealing with in terms of addictions, trauma [and] drug use, and I personally, through all the pondering of this, just think that the best investment should be at the adolescent level,” Dolson said.

“I have a personal interest in that age group specifically, so that’s where that initiative is. But I don’t do enough volunteer work or outreach or fundraising — so this is a newer thing for me. I feel like I want to invest more of my personal time and energy with youth that are between 13 and 20.”

Giving opportunities for professional growth and experience to youth, like the two grade nine boys who volunteered at the event, are important to Dolson, who is interested in nurturing employment-oriented skillsets for younger people.

Following the success of the open house, Dolson is preparing for her next holiday-themed event on Christmas Eve, which will offer a series of edible or consumable product boxes available for purchase: including a “citrus” box, “reindeer” box and a “holiday host” box.

“One thing with the holidays, in terms of my own personal values and my business, [is] I’m not all about just trying to get you to buy a bunch of [things]. I’m interested in consumable gifts, so a lot of the gifts that we sell here are food-focused or they’re body-care products that you will use — so you won’t accumulate ‘stuff’,” Dolson said.

“I just feel like consumable gifts are where it’s at, and if we can make them seasonal and delicious, and also exciting, that is where I feel like Legacy Greens can make an impact over the holidays.”

Especially around this time of the year, Dolson sees it as essential that local businesses support and help each other grow, cross-promote, and be leaders in creating and nurturing a sense of community in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

“A big part of our business is not the product, but the experience and the relationships we have with our customers: making an effort to learn their names, noticing things about them, asking them questions about their life,” Dolson said.

At the end of the day, Dolson wishes to provide people with an enjoyable seasonal shopping experience that doesn’t push wasteful and senseless spending.

“I just want people to celebrate the holidays in a bit of a less stressful way, so that’s where it’s hard for me, personally, to be pushing product around the holidays,” Dolson said.

As a retailer she struggles with the internal conflict between her love of food and the business.

“I love food, so I want to sell you as much delicious food as possible,” Dolson said.