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Free Bear Hugs-A story in progress

Our Free Bear Hugs campaign has been a smashing hit! We have managed to meet hundreds of people from in and around the community who have taken interest in the awesome events that go on in our neighbourhood.

We gave out over 350 hugs at Khatsahlano Festival and another 150 at Folk Fest! If you would like to find photos to either event check them out on our Facebook page:

Khatsahlano Festival
Folk Fest

We’re planning on giving out even more hugs in the coming weeks so look out for the Free Hugs Crew for your chance to make sure that our Bear has a story to tell at Christmas! For more information about our campaign: Free Hugs and the Teddy Bear Toss



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U Paint I Fire-Ceramics and Pottery-“unique, relaxing, and always changing”-July 8th

Today Shirley and I went to U Paint I Fire ceramics and pottery to interview owner and sole employee John Behragam on W. 4th Avenue. The sign out front is a beaming yellow and black sign that has seen its days. However, inside the store the shelves are ripe with colourful works both of John and his customers. We sat down at the green marbled tables to discuss the history of John, the lone ranger ceramist and potter, and community to him!


John learned pottery from his father whose father’s father was also a potter who learned from his father…anyways you get the point. John is a 4th generation potter who takes great pride in his Persian/Iranian heritage. After picking up ceramics during 14 years of teaching in the adult education system, John opened up his very own store, by himself, 16 years ago.

In case you are wondering, essentially ceramics is hand building and casting while pottery is using the wheel to make vessels or containers! There are several different types of clay and methods for both categories. If you want to know more contact John himself!

Originally the store was named “Bonita Arts,” but John found customers would frequently call to ask, “Can I paint?” To which John would respond, “Yes you paint, I fire.” At that point a new name had come to fruition, “U Paint I Fire.” As simple and straight forward as it is customers still sometimes call into ask, “Do I get to paint?”

As a member of the local Kitsilano community for over 16 years, John has had the pleasure, as he describes, of watching children grow up who frequent the store. John embraces the community through his work teaching classes and hosting parties. Getting to know new faces and watching old ones bloom is what John says makes his time so enjoyable.

By sharing his knowledge of a slowly fading art form, John contributes something so rich to this community. John holds such a passion for his work. 22 ceramic studios have closed down across BC, as U Paint I Fire is one of the last standing. This is due largely in part to John’s dedication to his work; biking to and from work every day after sculpting, pouring, and throwing for 8-16 hours a day. If it wasn’t for his hard work many youth and adults would not be exposed to ceramics and pottery.

John has seen small businesses fall and large businesses emerge in the Kitsilano community, which slightly angers John. However, he chips in where he can on a tight budget to support the locally owned businesses, ordering food for parties and buying lunch every so often. John can also be seen having coffee or tea with his friendly neighbours or playing tennis around the community!

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John’s passion for the Kitsilano community was so apparent when speaking with him. We asked John what he thought would help build the community and he was bursting with suggestions. John wishes that the community could be tied closer together, especially the area from Macdonald to Alma. John suggested having a street festival, a local website or newsletter, community meetings, and events to help keep everyone informed.

A peak around the items on offer and a tour from John of his cozy little shop, from the wheels to the kilns, wrapped up the interview. It was remarkable how many different pieces he was able to make on his own with such quality.

We’ll be back to hopefully film a P4A of John throwing on the wheel in a couple weeks!

There are all sorts of reasons to check out U Paint I Fire! Break a mug? No problem, go paint yourself a new one. Want a new piggy bank? They got those too. Want to unwind and relieve some stress? Spend some time on the wheel. Whether ceramics interests you or not, pay John a visit to see why U Paint I Fire is the last standing ceramics studio!

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Come back for more interviews with our local businesses!

Photo Credit: Shirley Lei

Quick Facts:

John is a father of 2 young boys. Whether they will be such accomplished potters as John is still in the air.

John can make 300-500 pieces in a single day by himself.

The most popular items are the cupcakes, apple dishes, and figurines!

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Beyond Bread-“Its community beyond everything else”-July 8th

Today Shirley, Hank, and I (Michael) held our first interview with Beyond Bread, an artisan bakery, located at 4th and Alma. Beyond Bread has close connections with the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House and has been in the community for many years. We spoke with Jim Tai who has been the Manager at Beyond Bread for over 2 years.

“You gotta have a passion for what you do. Our businesses is defined by people”


Beyond Bread took off after baker Monroe Webb took over Floran Moldovan’s peasant bread bakery, Transilvania. Ever since, Monroe has transformed the businesses by introducing over 16 varieties of bread, a cafe, and other specialty items such as pizzas. Beyond Bread is constantly tweaking their recipes and procedures based largely on their customers’ preferences.

What makes the bread at Beyond Bread unique is their multi-day process that starts from scratch with the formation of their own unique cultures and fermentation. This is unlike many other commercial bakeries that may produce bread in just 1 day. The bread is fully organic made from locally sourced flour and ingredients which make it even better.

Beyond Bread embraces community through several different ways. This past Thanksgiving Jim made over 100 loaves of bread to give out for donations for the Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. Beyond Bread also engages with the community through local farmers markets, where they sell their bread and connect with other small businesses.

Jim also strengthens the community in store through different events and activities with his team. Just recently, Jim went with one of his pastry chefs on a pastry hop around the city. The staff at Beyond Bread is much more like a family, they support one another and bond outside of work.

“Its not just about the bread. We are a part of our customers lives and they are ours”

Jim also finds connecting with his community of customers extremely fulfilling. He says, “being able to see our customers so happy…is very valuable.” This is exactly how we would describe the atmosphere we experienced just sitting with Jim for half an hour. Jim greeted every customer that walked in the door by name and told countless stories of loyal customers. For instance, often times customers speak with Jim and his staff about how much the bakery and cafe mean to them. These customers have made Beyond Bread a part of their daily routine for several years. Without these loyal customers Beyond Bread would not have such a great reputation.

Jim was a pleasure to interview, he oozed passion for the baking and community that make it all possible. Jim doesn’t have a particular memorable moment, but he finds joy in each time customers recognize Beyond Bread’s contribution to their lives.

Drop by Beyond Bread the next time you’re in the neighbourhood and try some of their daily specials or stick to their famed Country Bread! Their inventory is always changing so don’t be afraid to try something new. Jim and his knowledgeable crew are always willing to help you pick something new or even lend an ear for a quick chat.


We felt Beyond Bread goes beyond baking; it is truly about connecting with and supporting their loyal customers.

Beyond Bread purchases all their ingredients from local small businesses to help support their community. For a list of their partners check out their website!

We were really excited after completing our first interview! We’re looking forward to interviewing many more so be on the lookout for more to come!

Photo Credit: Shirley Lei

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Lets Get Blogging-The P4A Blog Begins!

Hey everyone welcome to the Kits House Project for Awesome blog where we will be sharing our experiences interviewing local Kitsilano businesses on what community means to them! The Kitsilano community is full of passionate small businesses that take pride in supporting the community. We are hoping to provide an inside look into these businesses to see how they strengthen their communities. Shirley, Rojina, and I (Michael) have specifically picked businesses that are loyal to the community and passionate about their craft.

If you think you know someone who strengthens our community leave a comment or a message telling us what makes them so special!

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The P4A Bear-Supporting the Vancouver Giants Teddy Bear Toss

If you haven’t seen already the P4A teddy bear is here! In support of the Vancouver Giants annual Teddy Bear Toss the P4A team will be donating our own bear full of its own experiences from local events in Kitsilano! Our hope is that whoever receives this bear in December will be able to look and see all the amazing people and things this bear has done!

To find out more about the Teddy Bear Toss checkout the Vancouver Giants website!

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2014 Kits House P4A

So you’re excited to be involved the 2014 Kits House P4A! We are too. You can make a video, post a dare, volunteer for the tech team, or all of the above! We haven’t set the theme yet so we would love your suggestions so take the poll linked below. We will be looking to have free one on one video making support again in some form.

Speaking of which, we need budding journalists, documentarians, and videographers who want to share their talents and help members of the community who do not have editing and storytelling experience to use this medium. This enables people who would not otherwsie be able to share their shine and tell their stories, and that inspires others and helps foster community! Plus you get accredited volunteer hours.

We would love to create a video equipment lending library so donations for that and for the video creation support process are greatly appreciated!

Also we always need volunteers on the Kits House P4A tech team to manage social media, help with video creation support, and various tech stuff.

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Kits House P4A Video Making 2014

Do you believe in community building? Do you have a great project, volunteer gig, or group of people you hang with? If so, we would love for you to make a Kits House Project for Awesome Video! Do you feel afraid of the editing tech? No worries! All you have to do is capture your raw video footage with a device as simple as your camera phone and we have volunteers to help with the rest (and yes you can be one of those volunteers if you have video tech skills!!). We even have a microphone you can borrow! Videos will be banked and are submitted as part of the yearly international Project for Awesome on Youtube on December 17th with the goal to get as many people to like/comment and view these stories as possible and in so doing inspire more fun community connections! The power of you sharing your story is so powerful, so come on, get involved. Tell us, “Community; What’s it to you?”