Store connects couple with wider Filipino community – Campbell River Mirror

Contributed by the

Welcoming Communities Coalition

The JRV Filipino Asian Store has been open for only 16 months, but its owners are finding that their business venture is more than just a store – it’s a way to connect the Filipino community in Campbell River.

Rica Briones and Ivan Ragonot started the JRV Filipino Asian Store in June 2021, in the midst of the pandemic. While they have both lived here for 11 and eight years, respectively, running a store that offers specialized Filipino snacks and dried goods has introduced them to countless others who also emigrated from the Philippines.

As a result, Briones has found herself taking on an organizing role in the Campbell River Filipino-Canadian Cultural Association, which became inactive around the start of the pandemic. She and Ragonot gathered friends to create a float for this year’s Campbell River Rotary Canada Day Parade (their “Smile” float was awarded 1st place) and started a new group Facebook page at the beginning of July.

Briones’ social media skills are partly what led to the idea for the JRV Filipino Asian Store. She was selling Filipino-made bags online while working as a scheduler for a care facility with a toddler at home. When she was asked to return to the office as COVID-19 restrictions lifted, she and Ragonot brainstormed ways in which she could continue to work with their children de ella by her side de ella (now four-months-old and three-years- old). They knew that many people, such as themselves, traveled to Vancouver for imported Asian food not readily available on the Island, and the store was born.

Briones came to Canada from the Philippines in 2011, following the footsteps of her mother. Ragonot was sponsored by a local Tim Horton’s to work at the food counter. The two came from separate regions of the Philippines but connected through mutual friends at Ella’s Briones’ 25th birthday party.

Both happen to be IT (information technology) graduates, but their credentials are not recognized in Canada. Briones’ first job in Campbell River was with Home Hardware as a cashier and she was soon promoted to accountant. Both eventually moved to the field of health care as care aides – this has inspired Ragonot to pursue a nursing career while Briones focuses on the store.

The shop on 13th Avenue at Greenwood Street carries hard-to-find food items from the Philippines as well as a few products from countries such as China, Thailand, Vietnam, and India. Briones posts on their Facebook page (facebook.com/jorivicollections) when a new shipment is coming in, which often leads to an immediate sell-out of dried snacks and brands like Magnolia and Selecta ice cream.

The pandemic provided its own unique challenges to running a new small business, including sourcing products and knowing if they would arrive on time to have to adjust prices due to increasing costs.

“It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride,” Ragonot says.

He adds that the support from the community has been overwhelming.

“We’re really happy about it,” he says. They dream of one day opening a large Asian grocery store in Campbell River.

When asked if they have any advice to newcomers settling on the Island, the couple says to focus on your dreams but remember to rest.

“And build connections, too,” Ragonot says.

They remember when the Campbell River Filipino-Canadian Cultural Association would host huge gatherings for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and the Philippines’ Independence Day (June 12). To continue to help bring the Filipino community together, Briones, Ragonot, and friends hosted a summer picnic at Miracle Beach in August. After, many people expressed their gratitude on the group’s Facebook page for a “very happy and memorable” event.

Said one person, “The warm friendly camaraderie of everyone made us withstand the cold weather we had. God bless us all.”

This article is one of four in an October series contributed by The Immigrant Welcome Center’s Welcoming Communities Coalition that shares the experiences of newcomer entrepreneurs in Campbell River. The Coalition is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Listen to more of Rica Briones and Ivan Ragonot’s story at holdingheritage.com or download the episode from Holding Heritage wherever you get your podcasts. Read the introduction to the series on the Mirror’s website and read the final stories in The Mirror’s upcoming magazine, The People Project.

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The Campbell River Filipino-Canadian Cultural Association's “Smile” float won first place at the 2022 Canada Day parade in Campbell River.  Photo contributed

The Campbell River Filipino-Canadian Cultural Association’s “Smile” float won first place at the 2022 Canada Day parade in Campbell River. Photo contributed

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