Port McNeill has been transformed. It’s lit up and dressed up in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of…yes …Christmas.
Port McNeill shops have been busy loading up the shelves, and are offering seasonal specials. Home based crafters & artisans have a few more shopping events coming up before Christmas. Get your picture taken with Santa, watch the First Responders Santa parade, take the kids to an afternoon concert at the theatre and there are ways to donate and help others.
If you have information about an upcoming event please send a text to 250.230.4611 and it will be included.
Trees are $60 each and available now during store hours at Shoprite General Store
Vendors at the Farmers Market offer: chocolates, greeting cards, baked goods, jewelry and lots of arts & crafts.
The season gets under way when merchandise starts showing up on store shelves right after Hallowe’en. Gradually it gains momentum and this week Port McNeill is positively buzzing with activity. Bucket trucks have been stringing lights downtown, imaginative displays are going up at local businesses and the special red post office box is ready for our letters to Santa.
Nothing beats Port McNeill’s small town, big spirited kick off to Christmas
Between now and December 25th there’s plenty to fill your calendar including: craft markets with artisans and food vendors, holiday movies at Gate House Theatre, official tree lighting ceremony, a parade, free skating sessions at Chilton Arena and plenty of chances to chat with Santa.
Rain or shine, come and help count down Christmas “light up” in front of IGA tomorrow night. Three local mompreneurs from 19 North Apparel are creating a decorated shelter with comfy chair so Santa can stay visit and have his picture taken. Bring your own camera — there’s no charge.
Don’t miss this special night of great deals, door prizes and sweet treats. Participating stores include:
Island Dawn’s Gift & Consignment
Shoprite Logging, Marine & Outdoor Sports
Tia’s Cafe — MJM Apparel will have a booth set up at Tia’s
The North Island Gazette has been raising funds for Christmas Hampers since 1980. With the strike between WFP and Logger’s Union now into its fifth month there are more North Islanders than ever struggling financially.
A new group called North & South VI Logging Communities United is also taking registrations for Christmas Hampers this year. Visit their website at: https://looniesforloggers.com/ This group has held numerous beer & burger fundraisers up and down the island and been collecting cash and food donations. Their trailer has visited Port McNeill once already and will be back again before Christmas.
Don’t miss Port McNeill’s biggest craft show of the year. Treat yourself to homemade treasures like jewelry, soaps & candles, clothing, paper crafts and edible delights by more than 50 vendors. At the Scout Hall next to the Old School have a browse through the annual fundraising garage sale and enjoy sweet treats & hot chocolate. We won’t make you guess who the special guest is — it’s SANTA. With another opportunity to tell him what’s on your list this year and have your picture taken.
Lunch includes Julia’s homemade peroghies and cabbage rolls — trust us when we say — delicious !!
For more information about events in other North Island communities have a look at this ultimate winter fun guide on Vancouver Island North Tourism’s webpage.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.