For the Love of Beads

“It’s an eclectic mix of local artists that’s just amazing to behold.”  That’s the enthusiastic response I got from shop owner Carol Ellison when I asked her for the store’s elevator speech.  Located in the Pioneer Mall since 2014, Carol aka The Bead Lady has been creating for most of her life.  And for those who have never visited the store don’t let the bead part of the name fool you.  The emphasis is definitely on gallery.

The short story is:  while running Windsong Marina near Simoom Sound out in the Broughton Archipelago Ellison started selling her beadwork at the gift shop.  That’s where she sold her first beaded hummingbird back in 2000.  Once the marina sold Ellison moved to Shawl Bay and opened a gallery of her own.  Eventually making the move to Port McNeill in 2014, Ellison settled into the old Pacific Coastal Airlines office. Admitting, “people just weren’t going by my place that much,” Ellison picked up and relocated to her current location.  She says, “here I get everybody.  Not just my old-time clients that are boaters but I get visitors that are driving past.  It’s the best exposure area in town.”

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Ellison may have started off selling her own beadwork but soon branched out carrying other artist’s work.  Fifteen different artists are now exclusive to the store.  Over time the store has morphed into carrying a few small antiques and eventually expanded into ladies clothing as well.  Wish I could come up with a flashier cliché but you really have to see it to believe it.  The gallery includes: ceramic & glass art, mosaics, First Nations carvings and woven hats, teas, soaps & lotions and jewelry.

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Artwork, clothing, jewelry and more…
Ahh the jewelry.  Rings and bracelets and hundreds of pairs of earrings.  An explosion of sparklies.  Buy them ready-made or poke through the drawers full of beads to make your own.  Trying to get enough people together for classes didn’t work out but Ellison kindly offers, “if someone wants to learn beading I will teach them.”

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Carol Ellison “The Bead Lady” working on her latest bead creation
Funding from Community Futures of Mount Waddington has allowed Ellison to buy stock and to expand her line of clothing.  Colourful flowing dresses, tops, leggings, wraps and scarves.  Stylish and comfortable clothing for every day or a special occasion.Carol keeps a wish list for customers if you’re not sure what to buy your special someone.

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Funky & comfortable clothing for mature figures
According to Ellison loyalty is the number one reason customers select her store over others.  “We try to make the customer’s visit enjoyable.  The whole ambience is to make you feel relaxed and comfortable.”  She adds, “just a small thing like the fireplace being turned on makes a difference.”  Admitting with a smile that there’s no heat coming from the fireplace — people just want to sit there.

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C’mon in and stay awhile
There are challenges to being the owner/operater of a small shop in a small town. Ellison has a friend and fellow artist who steps in to take care of the store occasionally but the feisty senior vows she’ll run the business until she’s not able to anymore. Ellison adds, “with the economic state the way it is on the North Island and sitting afraid of the softwood tax and what it’s going to do to the logging industry — people are holding their money close.” Another challenge is people spending their money down island or on the internet.  Stating very matter of factly, “shop local and support your local businesses or one day we’ll wake up and find there are no local businesses left.”

Things you may not know about Carol Ellison & The Bead Lady’s Gallery.  She donates to local groups…a lot !!  Whether it’s a purse or hand crafted jewelry Ellison does what she can to help local groups and their fundraising efforts.  And in a previous life she was master florist for 27 years specializing in wedding flowers.

Slow down next time you’re walking by the shop.  Ellison’s creativity includes the ever changing window display.  There’s something fresh and new for each occasion or sometimes display ideas just pop into her head, that she thinks “are funny or would be cool.”  Just wait until Christmas !!  The store goes all out for Christmas.  A few hints – trees, teddies and a train.  You’ll just have to wait.

Bead Lady’s Gallery

15-1705 Campbell Way (Pioneer Mall), Port McNeill

250-956-4050

https://m.facebook.com/beadladysgallery/

Bargains with a smile…


Whether you’re selling homemade jam at the farmer’s market or the largest company in town — how a customer is treated can make or break a business.  The Bargain Shop in Port McNeill strives to provide excellent customer service and it shows.

April 1st will mark the ten year anniversary of The Bargain Shop opening and Michelle Monk was part of the original team.  Originally as a “key holder” and one year later she was promoted to manager.  I recently sat down with Monk to find out what makes The Bargain Shop tick.

“We’re a smaller more personal store where you can find almost anything you need right from clothing and shoes to houseware products or light bulbs.  It’s the store where you can get more personal service.  It’s an every day store.  You can pretty much find or we can get in anything you need.”  ~Michelle Monk ~

One of the biggest challenges, according to Monk, is competing with stores that offer online shopping.  She notes, “we’re a a smaller company and we may get there but we’re not there yet.  People from this town can get anything they want or need and easily order it from home, not having to leave their house or shop and look.  Tough to compete with that and it’s getting bigger.  I see comments on Facebook that someone has just received a big order for food and I can’t comment, but I’d like to say come and check out our prices.”  Many items are the same price as stores down island and sometimes they may be priced a dollar or two higher but Monk stresses the importance of keeping business in town.

And If you’re not sure how shopping locally affects us all here is just one article I found on a quick google search https://sustainableconnections.org/why-buy-local/

When asked about attaining personal Monk explains, “some people have a knack for it and those are the ones I want to hire.”  Staff are told “never to point” to an item but to personally take the customer and show them where the item is located.  That’s also why there are no aisle numbers in the store.  It gives the staff a few moments to chat with the customers and make them feel welcome.  Monk asks her staff how they feel when they walk into a store without being acknowledged. She says “all it takes is a hello or a how are you and in a small town it is easier knowing so many people.

For those who don’t pay attention to receipts have a look next time you shop at The Bargain Shop. There is a website to visit and fill out a quick survey. If you give them your email address you’ll receive a 10% off coupon and you can also enter a monthly contest for in store gift cards. Monk proudly told me the store scores, “very high on the survey that people can take after visiting the store. My District Manager has me train other stores because we get 80 to 90% on customer service all the time. I remind the staff daily that customers come first and we never ignore a customer.”

Many customers are surprised to learn Michelle is the manager.  She spends more time behind the counter than in her office.  And not wanting to be just the boss Monk admits, “the staff are family to me.  I promised myself when I became manager that I would take all the good points from previous bosses.  Firm, fair, helpful and work as hard as the associates.”

For me the store is like a treasure hunt and I’m always astounded at the random items I find when cruising the aisles.  I asked Monk to tell me something about The Bargain Shop that people might not know.  She admits, “since SuperValu closed people are now becoming more aware of how many food items we carry, also medicine like children’s Advil and other pharmacy items we’re allowed to carry.”  She adds,” our canned goods are cheaper, coffee is cheaper and cereal is cheaper here.”

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Future plans for The Bargain Shop?  The chain of 155 stores does want to expand and according to Monk, “will probably grow bigger and change into Red Apple within the next five years.”  All the surveys customers fill out online are printed out and given to head office.  Those results are analyzed to see what can be done better and when a store does something outstanding it’s recognized and shared with other stores.  Monk encourages customers to fill out the survey “good or bad,” explaining, “we can’t fix something if we don’t know.”

The Bargain Shop sends flyers through Canada Post or visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TBSPortMcNeill

Chamber of Commerce Gala 2016

Once a year members of our business community and individuals gather together to celebrate excellence.  And the Port McNeill & District Chamber of Commerce really knows how to throw a party !! This year the event moved to the Lion’s Hall which was magically transformed with draped tulle, crisp white table linens and intimate lighting. The glamorous ambiance entirely fitting to honour this year’s nominees.

Multi-tasker extraordinaire Gaby Wickstrom was the master of ceremonies.  Wickstrom is not only this year’s Chamber President but also manages the organization from her home office: answering the phone, the email messages, attending conferences and meetings.  This night she was head cheerleader reminding us of the excellence & passion businesses and people provide the community.

Originally I was going to post a picture of my dinner.  Instead I’ll just mention the buffet was delicious and plentiful.  And the extra hot horseradish served with the roast beef was a big hit at our table *insert watering eyes here*.  Thanks Yanni and staff from the Sportsman Restaurant for all my favourite winter comfort food.  But I do digress.

Generous sponsor support enabled the Chamber to bring up Steven Falk and Richard Jansen, motivational speakers from “Switchback” who entertained and educated in their effective tag team delivery.  Their message was simple but profound.  Whether you’re a faller in the woods or a Chamber it’s essential to be on a team that comes together rather than falls apart when under pressure.  Not sure I’ve heard the word bullshit so many times in one presentation but it effectively underscored the negative, dark place we go when in fight or flight mode.

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The Chamber Gala — a night to network, socialize, break bread together, learn a little something about teamwork & celebrate businesses and volunteers

New Business of the Year

The nominees in this category were:
Carson Roofing Ltd.
Cluxewe Cafe & Waterfront Bistro
43K Wilderness Solutions
Flora Borealis
The Garden Shack Garden Centre
The Rock Pub

This company moved to the region in 2014. The owner is a home grown North Islander returning to the region, employing local people. They are known for quality work and excellent customer service. In a predominantly male led industry, this young woman is carving a name for herself.

New Business of the Year Winner — Carson Roofing Ltd.

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Michelle Carson, owner of Carson Roofing Ltd. & Gaby Wickstrom, Chamber President

Small Business of the Year

The nominees in this category were:
Absolutely Grape
The Bike Shed & Outdoor Store
Carson Roofing Ltd.
The Clothes Inn
Community Futures of Mount Waddington
Kal Tire
Mugz Coffee & Tea House
Ragged Edge Community Network
Robin’s Pet Supplies
Shoprite Marine
Subway
Timberland Sports Center

They go above and beyond with customer service and if they don’t have it in the store they will surely get it for you in a timely manner. They are supportive of the community and have a wide range of products for people of all income levels and interests. Their staff is friendly and knowledgeable and have created a biking group who are dedicated to improving people’s health.

Small Business of the Year winner — The Bike and Outdoor Store

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Eva Koel, owner of The Bike & Outdoor Store and Michelle Alfred, Chamber Board Member

Home-Based Business of the Year

The nominees in this category were:
Carson Roofing Ltd.
The Green Baron – Landscaping by Kirsten Baron
Kallie’s Kupcakes
Leanna Masterman – Epicure
Shayla Fraser- Steeped Tea
Trine Pederson – Hairdresser

This home business’s client base has grown from last year. They are committed to the Farmer’s Market and have an excellent product, customer service and customer loyalty. As a business owner they are involved in the community in many areas.

Home Based Business of the Year winner — Kallie’s Cupcakes

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Katherine Tjepkema of Kallie’s Cupcakes & Gaby Wickstrom

Tourism Award

The nominees in this category were:
BC Ferries – Port McNeill Terminal
James Willson – Silver King Ventures
Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures
MacKay Whale Watching
Nimmo Bay Resort
North Island Marina
Stubbs Island Whale Watching
Telegraph Cove Resort

This business has dedicated their lives to tourism and is always full of people in the summer. They are expanding and upgrading their facilities each year. The owner has been involved with the regional tourism advisory committee. They hold annual events open to other communities. In the summer the place is a bustling community with people visiting from all over the world.

Tourism Award winner — Telegraph Cove Resort

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Terrance Eissfeldt, Chamber Board Member & Geordie Graham, owner of Telegraph Cove Resort

Customer Service Excellence

The nominees in this category were:
Carson Roofing Ltd.
Jennie-Lynn Noel – Technician at People’s Drug Mart
Kayla Long – Tia’s Cafe
Kimberly Bentley – The Clothes Inn
Liquor Store Staff
Michelle Monk – The Bargain Shop
North Island Marina
Pharmacist Brittany Swanson – People’s Drug Mart
Robert Russell – The Shed Outdoor Store
Robin Neil – Robin’s Pet Supplies
Stacey Coy – Gus’s Pub

Some of the things said of this recipient were: She is always helpful and has a huge smile on her face when you come into the store. She will find what you need and goes out of her way to find it at the other store or order something in to keep customers happy. When you come out of the change room looking fabulous, she squeals and it’s an instant sale. She is an amazing person to deal with and work with.

Customer Service Excellence winner — Kimberly Bentley from The Clothes Inn

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Shelley Frost, Chamber Board member & Kimberly Bentley from Clothes Inn

Professional Merit Award

The nominees in this category were:
Dr. Priean Armogam
Dr. Brian Bostrom – Dental Clinic
Brenda Isaac – VIHA
Christie Dreger – Community Futures
Greg Muirhead – Teacher at NISS, Fireman, Ranger
Jonathon Fintoft – Western Forest Products
Jonathon Lok – Strategic Natural Resource Consultants
Terrence Eissfeldt – West Coast Helicopters

This person is an active, gung-ho teacher of Outdoor Pursuits helping to mold young people into well rounded individuals. They are also involved with the Junior Canadian Rangers and the Fire Department.

Professional Merit Award — Greg Muirhead 

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Greg Muirhead & Chris Stewart, Chamber Board member

Senior of the Year

The nominees in this category were:
Clarice Newman
Gloria LeGal
Helen Scott
Joanne Parker
Kathy Martin
Lois Kollman
Paddy Hinton
Peter Barrett
Tom & Julia Hopkins

Some of the things said of this recipient were: A retired school teacher/principal Kathy Martin has spent her life caring about literacy by fostering a love of books & reading, through drama and education. A master grant writer Kathy wrote for and received funds for the Mother Goose program — a traveling bus full of books taking literacy to children on the North Island . Those same grant writing skills resulted in Missoula Children’s Theatre coming to Port McNeill many times over the years. Fostering creativity and engaging youth in the arts Missoula is an amazing program that takes a group of kids and in one week has them learn lines and perform a play for the community. Kathy is a past Rotary member where she was active in literacy programs such as Born to Read (packages for newborns) and selling books for beginner readers at Craft Fairs.

Senior of the Year winner — Kathy Martin (Unable to attend the gala)

Youth Entrepreneur Award
The nominees in this category are:
Danielle Lacasse
Mathew Harder

Both of these nominees are exceptional young people in our community. The recipient of this award is super involved in the community in many areas: guides, quatse hatchery, science fair, etc. She has her own photography business, is an honor roll student and an exemplary ambassador for our community.

Youth Entrepreneur Award winner — Danielle Lacasse

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Danielle Lacasse is in the middle of the photo with her award, surrounded by other teachers & students from NISS

Innovation Award

From time to time the Chamber, where we see someone is achieving this, will give the innovation award to a business who truly thinks outside of the box in achieving success.

This year we are giving this award to a special group of young people who started a company with a vision of a better cup of coffee.  If you have not have the privilege to have a tour of their school and what they have achieved, you have missed out.  Their teacher Doug Abbot saw an opportunity and allowed the students to run with it.  In building their business they collaborated with many disciplines: computer science, woodworking, metalwork and the list goes on.  Prior to the tour, I had no idea what went into roasting a coffee bean.  They are garnering attention from other Island schools and this summer they provided all the coffee for Kingfisher kayak tours.

Innovation Award winner — 1Eleven Roasting Company – NISS Students

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Damaris Sadler, Chamber Board member, Adrian Pendergast & Doug Abbot both teachers at NISS & Gaby Wickstrom

Community Spirit Award
The nominees in this category were:
The Gazette Hamper Fund
Christina Hinton
Jay Dixon
Jessica Brown
North Island Farmer’s Market
Port McNeill Events Committee
Port McNeill Kids in Motion
Port McNeill Rotary Club
Robin Neil – Robin’s Pet Supplies
Steve & Jessica Jackman – North Island Marina
Terry Eissfeldt – The Gate House Community Association
Annie LeBlanc

This group of people is dedicated to developing a market where locally produced products are sold. This little organization has grown every year, is inclusive of the other regions and is involved in establishing food security for the North Island. They work incredibly hard not only to develop their own products, but support one another in order to be successful. They are inclusive of all communities and try to rove around the island so that they have a presence in each community.

Community Spirit Award winner — The North Island Farmers and Artisans Market Association

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Neva Perrott, Shannon Shepley & Gaby Wickstrom

Chamber Spirit Award

This special award is given to a chamber person who is dedicated to building up the business community. This year’s recipient has owned many businesses through the years. She is a passionate community person, who is known to give back. It’s in her nature to make her community better. She is supportive of business and always looks at ways where we as a Chamber can serve to make the business climate better. She has volunteered as our Treasurer for the last year and a half.

Chamber Spirit Award winner — Annie Leblanc (Unable to attend the gala)

Community Arts Award

The nominees in this category were:
Alana Collins – Portside Dance Academy
Gate House Theatre
Heather Brown – Artist
Pewi Alfred – First Nations Dance and Language/Alert Bay
Teresa Charlton – Highland Dance
Wild Heart Music

Some of the things said of this recipient were: They have successfully run for the last four years and have branched out into many communities. They perform, bring in professionals for young people to work with and sing with enthusiasm. Their program has been approved by the School District 7 schools and participating with: NISS, AJ Elliott, Sunset, Cheslakees, Sea View, Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw & Eke Me-xi Learning Centre.

Community Arts Award winner — Wild Heart Music

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Katherine Wykes, Roma Joseph, Linda Waines, Deborah Murray all from Wild Heart Music & Gaby Wickstrom

Business of the Year

The nominees in this category were:

C.A.B.
Carson Roofing
Coastal Community Insurance Services
Cluxewe Waterfront Bistro
Mugz Coffee & Tea House
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort
Petro Canada- Port McNeill & Hyde Creek
North Island Marina & Fuel Dock
Robin’s Pets Supplies
The Rock Pub
The Shed Outdoor Store
Shoprite/Rona
Strategic Natural Resource Consultants
Timberland Sports Centre
West Coast Helicopters Maintenance & Contracting Ltd.

This winner meets and exceeds the criteria of their nomination.  They employ our youth, providing them with valuable work experience and morals.  Each time I go there I am greeted by a working student or local and I recognize that importance.  The ambiance there is great and offers peace, quiet and privacy if you want it.  You can pop in for a quick specialty coffee or stay awhile in a relaxing ambiance with some great comfort food.  They are community minded donating gift certificates & coffee/goodies to many local events.

Business of the Year winner — Mugz Tea & Coffee House (Unable to attend the gala)

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners and special thanks to the sponsors and those who donated to the silent auction.  Each one of you helped make the Gala a sparkling success.

For more information on the Port McNeill Chamber of Commerce visit their website at: http://www.portmcneill.net, email them at portmcneillchamber@gmail.com or call 250-230-9952.

Great Things Brewing

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Chamber of Commerce members followed the aroma of coffee for the most recent Member to Member meeting Wednesday April 15th at North Island Secondary School (NISS).  The meeting was hosted by 1-11 Roasting, a student operated coffee roasting company.
This innovative program started with a student looking for another block in Doug Abbot’s Learning Assistance classroom. Abbot explains, “I thought we could do more than that so I offered him an entrepreneurial studies block and he build the very first coffee roaster and started roasting coffee. He built a vacuum brewer and started brewing it and selling it to teachers twice a day.” Teachers being a great market for coffee and requests from people wanting to buy bags of coffee led to a successful fundraiser for the girl’s soccer team.  The program got more popular, involving more students and it quickly became apparent to Abbot that it was bigger than one student and himself.
His enthusiasm contagious, Abbot is a huge cheerleader for the program and building relationships with other departments and the community. “It’s interesting how many students were connecting to this and feeling positive about it and learning a lot from the experience of running a business.” Abbot continues, “this wasn’t sitting around and talking hypotheticals, we weren’t doing worksheets, we were actually running a business. And this thing could succeed or it could fail. The more real we can make this for our students, the more they engage, the better they’re going to learn, the more fun they’re going to have.”image

According to Abbot the first roaster was a brilliant design but something more high quality and safer was required.  A team of students and teachers sat down and started designing a new one (shown above).  It took about three months and Abbot praises the design as “phenomenal.”  Not pretty perhaps but the stainless steel drum inside an aluminum body is hooked up to a computer with thermometers & roaster all talking to each other.  Add engineering, woodworking, computer science and electrical experience to an impressive list of skills students are learning.

And with a second hand espresso machine to be plumbed in, the next phase of the project is teaching students barista skills.  Abbot points out, “there are world championship barista competitions.  This is something we could eventually look forward to – having some really awesome baristas coming out of this school.  Some people make a living, a career out of being a barista.  There’s a real art that goes along with that.  So we’re focusing on all sides of coffee including where the coffee comes from.”  Brazil is no longer just a name on a map to students but the place where they buy beans directly from a farmer.  Abbot says the students “are learning a lot about social issues and what we can do in Canada to help.  We believe the farmers deserve to make enough to survive so we’re learning how through business we can not only make a difference in our community but the world.”

Jay Dixon, Principal of NISS wants to ensure 1-11 Roasting is a legacy for future students and states, “our long term vision is a drive through coffee shop on our property similar to the one in Port Hardy across from Home Hardware and to have that building constructed by our shop students and managed through our entrepreneur students.  Have it so that you can drive through to buy a bag of coffee or have students sell you a coffee.”  Not waiting for handouts from the provincial government Dixon adds, “we’re going to build programming that’s unique to the North Island and we’re going to be entrepreneurs.”

When students are working on big orders they set up stations in a classroom with students responsible for weighing, labeling, bagging and in charge of quality control of each bag of coffee.  Art students designed the company logo and a booth at the Christmas Craft Fair in December gave students invaluable experience dealing with the public while selling more than 80 pounds of coffee. Kingfisher Wilderness Adventures and Strategic Natural Resource Consultants are two local companies using 1-11’s coffee.

To order coffee from 1-11 Roasting visit their website at: 1-eleven.weebly.com

Photo credit – Gaby Wickstrom

Chamber in Transition

The Port McNeill & District Chamber of Commerce is a shining example of how great things can grow out of an egregious situation.  In 2015 without warning or consultation the Town of Port McNeill made the unilateral decision to take back control of the Visitor Information Centre and stop funding the Chamber of Commerce (previously funded by 75% of business license money collected by the Town).  Besides terminating that essential funding other repercussions were the loss of a full time employee that managed the Chamber & Visitor’s Info Centre as well as office space.

Recently I sat down with Chamber President Gaby Wickstrom who is running the organization from her home office. Continue reading “Chamber in Transition”