As a credit union trying to serve our community and membership, we are beset with increasing regulatory pressures and expectations; all because some investment bankers in New York misbehaved (and some deranged fundamentalists made use of commercial banking services, another story altogether).  But are these 'regulatory' and monetary policy tactics having the desired impact? In short, no. 

In the minds of politicians, stimulus is the answer, but a large proportion of the resources being pushed out into the economy are not making any difference, the so called recovery is stalled.  The principle reason for this is that the key 'intermediaries' are stuck - large banks and public companies.  A culture of risk aversion is now present, rooted, first, in weak indicators and, second, a fear of another banking calamity.  

For a great overview check out this post at Pieria.  The upshot for credit unions is paradoxical; the new regulatory practices (largely fashioned for international banks) insist on 'reducing' lending risks at a time when local businesses and social entrepreneurs are eager to create jobs and resuscitate local economic activity.  In the end, the financial system is not working.    

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Cafe Rooster Logo

A café that is the heart of the community is a hidden gem, for now!  Three long time CCEC Members who have lived in the Commercial Street neighbourhood for years, partnered with another friend to open café.   Meet  Chris Richmond, Pete Tuepah, Nadene Rehnby and Margot Skelhorn.

“CCEC made it possible.   
CCEC is more than just a bank.” 

Offering Matchstick locally roasted coffee, you can now stay in the hood and don’t need to go to The Drive.  Serving up fresh baked muffins daily, vegan and light fare (not a diner), they source local and organic ingredients as much as possible.   

The Commercial Street Cafe opened in November 2012 in the heritage building Gow Block. Some people may remember when it used to be Ernie’s Grocery and more recently a store/café. When the space was up for sale, the four friends knew they wanted a great café in the neighbourhood and worked through the steps to make it a reality. While opening a café was not on their bucket list, according to Nadene, they were pleasantly surprised when their bid for the cafe went through and CCEC approved the business loan.

They renovated in nine days to create an open concept space that spans two rooms.  They have Pete as head chef in the kitchen, Chris running the day-to-day as the general manager and Nadene busing tables in between her job as a graphic designer.  Margot as coffee manager setup the coffee bar and is now on sabbatical back home in Nova Scotia.  Tracy Thorn of the Cake Conspiracy, whose cake-decorating business needed more space,  uses their kitchen in exchange for baking.  It is a great partnership where the food and atmosphere is wonderful.

Commercial Street Café is truly a neighbourhood coffee shop.  When I visited on a mid-week morning, there was a steady stream of moms and dads with young kids stopping in for a coffee and baked treat.  The owners can walk to work and feel that as they are community based, they have more at stake in running a successful cafe.  They haven’t done much advertising and are focused on the day to day operations.  They are learning a lot and have plans to grow their business and neighbourhood connections in the years ahead.

“The credit union has been with me through all stages in my life, from my first home, to services related to my graphic design business and now, a commercial mortgage for the café.  CCEC is more than a bank. It is about personal relationships where, for example,  Shelly provided tips on using our ATM card in Mexico and Nikki sharing tips on visiting Disneyland.”   Nadene

“CCEC cares about you.  They know you and I’m not lost in the shuffle.”  Chris



3599 Commercial Street at East 20th Avenue, Vancouver





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"I love and admire CCEC as much as any organization in this neighbourhood.  I have always had my professional accounts here (Eastside Learning Centre, Car Free Days, the Purple Thistle, Groundswell as examples). CCEC is personal.  It is a living example of the best of alternative economic thinking - generous, hospitable, friendly and at the heart of the neighbourhood."

Most of you have heard about or participated in Vancouver’s Car Free Days.   Did you know that Matt Hern, CCEC Member is the person who initiated these festivals?  He opened an account at CCEC in the early 90’s for a project called Eastside Learning Centre.  He has lived in East Vancouver for his whole adult life and has long experience starting and running independent businesses.  Currently, in addition to teaching Urban Studies at SFU, Education at UBC and Community Economic Development in the Masters Program at Cape Breton University, he is launching a new project called, Groundswell Grassroots Economic Alternatives.

Groundswell is an alternative-to-business-as-usual school where 25 people under 35 years old spend eight months learning how to build cooperatives, collectives, non-profits, social businesses and a different way of doing business.   Matt says he was inspired by the good, smart young people in his neighbourhood that want to make an impact on the world with their projects, but are not sure of the route to take or have yet to see their projects come to full fruition.   After completing the 8 month Groundswell program, he sees the graduates emerging with a project that has been well researched and validated, a business plan and the personal confidence carry it through.   Matt feels there is a gap in the education system that will be filled by this program as these participants need to learn, in a cost-effective way, how to successfully launch a project where the primary impact is social, cultural or ecological.

Matt is looking forward to seeing what happens when the graduates are in the field with a different way of thinking and part of a larger collaborative network.   He says that in talking with people about his program, he is met both with skepticism and support.    The first program starts in September, 2013.   It is filling quickly so if you are interested, be sure to contact him.

CCEC is collaborating with Groundswell on this project providing loans to the students for their tuition which is on a sliding scale from $1,500 - $3,000.   Matt is inspired by the Bologna co-ops, the recovered factory movement in Argentina, Mondragon and the example of how a trade school and a bank are working together will help guide his partnership with CCEC.

For more information visit: or contact Matt at; 778.840.7055

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