Kim Stokie, Freshening up Downtown Fernie
The Stokie and Morris two Fernie names that go back generations with many stories behind them. Part Stokie and Morris, it’s not surprising that Kim is not only passionate about the community, but she’s also one tough cookie when it comes to recreation in the mountains. “When we got into trouble, my mom would make us bike up to Island Lake on our BMX bikes, check with Gord or whomever was working up there, and then bike home,” she remembers with wide eyes. Boy, I was 24 the first time I made that trip on my mountain bike!
Kim was living in Squamish with her husband and two daughters under two when she decided she needed to be closer to her family. Her parents were near the end of a sailing trip around the world, and Kim called her mom Liz and said, “I need you.” Liz frankly replied, “We’re not moving to Squamish.” “Well, where do you want to live,” Kim replied. “Fernie.” So, they all made their way back here. Lucky for us!
With the support she needed, it wasn’t long before Kim started toying with the idea of a coffee shop. She had worked at a coffee shop previously and had been chatting with a guy named Bob about opening one in Fernie. Liz raised the idea of them doing it on their own, as they could split the care of Kim’s kids, switching four on, four off shifts. Kim remembers asking, “What about Bob?” but by then the idea had already taken on a life of its own. “It’s cheaper to employ someone in a coffee shop than to pay them to babysit!” she admits, plus she recognizes that while she can handle a bad cup of coffee being served, she couldn’t handle poor childcare.
And the snowball that is Freshies began, October of 2004. Kim and Liz had the community in mind from the beginning. “We wanted to make sure everyone felt welcome – red people, blue people, pink people, all people. To encompass all of the community and be its heart, so everyone felt comfortable. And to create a meeting spot. And it worked, I think,” says Kim, as she looks around the coffee shop.
Over the years, Kim has noticed people being friendlier to one another in Freshies. She notices that people in line can chat with one another, which didn’t happen as frequently at first. “They have been connected by the space. People come down to Freshies to see who’s here,” she says. Kim also feels like running Freshies has helped her to be more in tune with what tourists and residents are looking for, which has provided an opportunity for Kim to help out. Her most recent project is in collaboration with other businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Fernie, and the Mountain Market, working towards adding more vibrancy during the summer months by expanding activities and events taking place on Victoria Avenue. “Customers and tourists feel like there is nothing to do in town, especially on Sundays. They needed more stimulation,” she recognizes. She had also heard from other businesses having a tough go on Sundays, which is where the idea originated.
Freshies has also become a meeting area of sorts, providing a comforting and social space for groups and meetings such as the Fernie Mountain Bike Club, FLOW conversations, receptions, and memorials. “I don’t feel like I own the space, I just manage it,” Kim says. “When the people stop walking through the door, that’s when it ends and I’ll be okay with it as everything grows to die. This winter it nearly came to that, and within two hours we found a new home for Freshies.” Don’t roll down your sleeves quite yet Kim, it’s obviously not Freshies’ time.
1. When did you arrive in Fernie and what brought you here? My mom’s womb – born and raised.
2. Where did you first live in Fernie? Behind the old high school on 3rd Ave.
3. What was your first impression? It was just a magical place to be!
4. What kept you in Fernie? Definitely family, friends and lifestyle.
5. Do you have a favourite Fernie memory? Being from here, I have a ton of them but one of my most recent was when we peaked nine mountains last summer and Hailey said, “I’m never going to forget this moment!” This year our goal is to hit ten!
6. What is your favourite time of the year in Fernie and why? All seasons, I love them all. Just because you can be as active or as mellow as you want, depending on the season or day. I like skiing a lot, but I also like swimming in summer, and then I like hiking in fall because it’s cool, and then spring is a new beginning…
7. Where do you see Fernie in 5 to 10 years? How about this, an environmentally, friendly, all season tourist town! Where I would hope it to be anyway.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals? Waking up between 4:30 and 5am, getting ready for work, coming to Freshies and having a cup of coffee and then doing the daily Freshies routine!
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you. Maybe some people don’t know that I used to be a social worker… a suicide intervention/ behaviour management counsellor.