“I guess we were young and we wanted an adventure.”
Meet Doutzen – vibrant head of the Hofstede’s family and co-founder of Hofstede’s Country Barn. Doutzen and her late husband Roelof moved their family to Canada in 1981 and opened the store in 1997. Many of you are familiar with their story – the early years spent shuttling fruit between Chilliwack and the Okanagan for weekly markets. What you may be less familiar with is what life was like for the young Hofstede’s family during their first five years in Canada.
We asked Doutzen to share some of her experiences from the early days of their arrival, up to the opening of Hofstede’s Country Barn.
Why did you and Roelof decide to move to Canada?
Everyone always asks me that. I think that when we visited Ontario in 1976 for the Olympics we really enjoyed our trip, but we never discussed moving there. Then, we visited British Columbia in 1980 and fell in love with it. BC is such a beautiful place, and we moved in 1981. I guess we were young and we wanted an adventure.
How has Chilliwack changed since you arrived?
People in Vancouver used to say to me, “Chilliwack, that’s where the highway ends”. There was a perception that Chilliwack was a little town in the middle of nowhere. Chilliwack was definitely a lot smaller – I remember there being very little traffic between Abbotsford and Chilliwack. The city has definitely grown over the last three decades.
Did you always plan to start your own store?
No, not really. The first couple of years we spent in Canada were really tough. In Holland, I was a Home Ec. teacher and Roelof was an accountant. Then we moved to Canada and I began cleaning houses. We also both worked on farms for a little while – we were just working odd jobs wherever we could to pay the bills. Eventually, Roelof starting bringing fruit back and forth between Chilliwack and the Okanagan, and the weekly markets and the store grew from that. It wasn’t an easy beginning, so it’s amazing to see how the store has grown into what it is today.