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Dream!…A Vision!…a Hurricane??

This is the story of The Wooden Monkey

September 29th, 2003 Hurricane Juan hit Nova Scotia with a force that not only changed the landscape of our province, but totally changed the direction of my life (Christine’s as well but she didn’t know it yet, and Matt wasn’t far behind)

Stores and roads were closed…supplies were hard to get…our lives were put on hold and I sat in my dark living room asking myself some tough questions..

  •  Do we have enough food in N.S. to feed everyone if we were ever shut off from the rest of the world for a few days or even weeks?
  •  How much do we depend on the outside world to bring us our food supply every day?
  •  What about climate change and food security?
  •  How many farmers do we have?
  •  How resourceful are we?

When you stand at your grocery checkout counter, do you ever really think about where all that food comes from? How far it has travelled? What is in it? Pesticides…GMO’s…antibiotics?…The answers to these questions scare me to death. What a huge risk we are taking by being so totally dependent on other places around the world to supply us our food. We are, for the most part, an island. We need to embrace our local suppliers and learn how to become more independent and resourceful so that we can stand alone if ever another catastrophe hits us.

My name is Lil MacPherson, born raised in Nova Scotia, mother to Jake and Sam, who are my biggest inspirations. Like all mothers we want to protect our children, and we spend our lifetime doing so. But as my children grew older I became very curious and concerned of how our food is grown, and what was being done to it? Over the years I have learned how our foods are being grown with millions of tons of pesticides, herbicides, heavily processed, irradiated shipped from thousands of miles away, grown with manipulated GMO seeds, the horrors goes on and on…all while polluting our precious resources at the same time! Food production is slowing killing our planet. Our agricultural systems have become unsustainable, unhealthy, unnatural and in need of a shift if we are to survive on this planet.

Hurricane Juan may have left our province is a crisis situation but something good always comes out of disasters…and I feel that without that in my life, the Monkey may have never been born. The gears were put into motion…my vision was clear – now I needed someone onboard to help me bring it all to life.

This is where my future long-time business partner and friend Christine Bower would now play a critical role in the success of this monkey business of ours.

Christine and I had worked many years together in other restaurants. We both had very different strengths and our passions and talents meshed together for what we dreamed to be the perfect recipe for our vision. With a few open credit cards…help from local farmers, fishermen, suppliers, friends and family we were ready dive off the biggest cliff we had ever climbed…a leap of faith for sure!

Building started on The Wooden Monkey, and interestingly enough, most of the material used was from salvaged wood from barns, buildings, and trees that were blown down from Hurricane Yuan! What it blew down would stand again!!!!

To this day Christine and I shake our heads at that first crazy year! It almost brings us to tears thinking of the people that supported us when most people said this would fail. But to us…failure was NOT an option! We had the vision, we had an amazing staff, great support and for those who thought we would never make it … a drive so strong because we had to prove to not only ourselves, but to others that lack of money and resources was no match for our passion … our drive and our vision. We put the blinders on and opened the gate! We were off!!!!

We haven’t looked back since, but instead looked forward to expanding our dream and in the Spring of 2013, the Wooden Monkey Dartmouth location was launched. And this is where our third business partner comes in … Matthew Gass. Matt was a key player in our Halifax location for 8 years as our General Manager so it was a no-brainer that he should become a partner with us as our business grew.

Our Halifax location is now managed by Adam Savelle … a hard-working, driven, amazingly energetic man who passionately shares our vision.

We have succeeded over a list of obstacles longer than you can imagine…so what was our strength to look beyond … to not give up … to keep moving forward? In one word … PASSION. Passion for what we believe in … passion for great service, great food and a great atmosphere. Passion for wanting to create and sustain a place where everyone can come and enjoy a meal together – no matter what your food limitations are … no matter what your likes and dislikes and with today’s challenges on growing allergies, we wanted to be able to be there for all our customers while supporting our vision.

Our success is due to our amazing staff which had to learn some pretty different things 9 years ago . like organics, fair-trade, Monsanto, factory farming, fish farms, gluten, nut and wheat allergies. Celiac disease.. and the list goes on and on . and the learning still continues for us all.

The Wooden Monkey strives to support and help grow a healthier, local, sustainable food system here in Nova Scotia.

We welcome you to join us in learning and tasting the amazing benefits you receive while supporting your local farmers. This new direction we are all working towards helps all the vital ecosystems on this planet. While growing our local economy we can feed our neighbors and support all the cleaner technology to help bring this world to a better, safer place.

We were committed to a vision of supporting as many organic and local farmers as we can by purchasing ALL our beef, chicken, pork, and lamb from NS only. And that commitment stands strong to this day. We currently purchase from 18 local farms and are proud of this growth! Please check out all our suppliers on our website.

There is a global awakening happening everywhere in this world and we have a name for this movement…The Green Tsunami! It’s the largest, self-organizing movement this planet has ever known. Its people like us joining together for a better world and healthier future for our children.

We welcome you to join us at our table…savor the tastes of Nova Scotia and enjoy “real” food – guaranteed the freshest you’ll ever experience! You’ll not only leave totally satisfied that you just ate a delicious meal, you’ll leave knowing you made a difference to your local farmers and fishermen…knowing that it does take a village and when we stop looking beyond our borders to sustain us and look to each other locally, it is amazing what we can accomplish. To all our local farmers and fishermen…I say “Cheers! And Thanks!!”

Now I must roll the credits! We can’t finish this story without a mention to some very key people that were there from the start. And all the way through!!

  • Robie Sagar who gave us his heart and talented hammer and invested in us with our first leap of faith! And sourced our entire Hurricane Juan wood.
  • John Dalton, owner of Big Life Whole Foods, who worked with Lil for 2 years, teaching her Macrobiotics, luckily while working in the Old Brewery Farmers Market getting to know all the future farmers for this vision,. And thanks John for the advice to name our place The Wooden Monkey!
  • Brooks Kind, for painting our now famous Monkey logo… a beautiful piece of art!! We sent him to work on a sandwich board and he was inspired to paint this beautiful piece of art instead!!
  • Lil’s brother, Jeff MacPherson, who put his heart and soul and worked so many hours into building our first monkey project!
  • Michael Lewis who came with his talented paint brush that still wows us to this day, his talents can be seen in our new Monkey.
  • Chad Bower, Christine’s husband, who was the building force in our location on Grafton Street, and our new location in Dartmouth. I know he lost weight building it he worked so hard! AND He continues being our savior with a hammer who comes to our rescue everytime we spring a leak, blow a pipe, whatever it is . Chad shows up !! .. Thanks so much Chad ! We love you!
  • David Baxter, for his wonderfully creative talents. He and Chad made an amazing team! We know David doesn’t like leaving Tatamagouche much so we were thrilled that he came lugging wood and even a tree that is now mounted to the ceiling of our new location! So creative David! Thanks!!
  • AND OF COURSE Stu for just being there for every adventure we do!!
  • Thanks Batman…you always having our backs!
  • Cheers to EVERYONE who has ever eaten at the Monkey. Thank you for making this the business that it is today!




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