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.
Welcome to the May long weekend. What does that look like for you? Perhaps 3 whole days to sleep in, go camping, hiking, gardening or something else that you’ve been daydreaming about that brings you joy. Thanks to Queen Victoria whose birthday we’re celebrating for that extra day.
Want to get your weekend started by supporting local farmers and artisans? From 10am-2pm head down to visit the outdoor market at the harbour in Port McNeill. Hint from a local — for the best selection of baked goods, jams, produce, arts and crafts be sure to get there early. For information on upcoming summer dates join the Port McNeill Farmers and Artisans Market Facebook page.
Port McNeill’s municipal outdoor pool is now open for another splashing good summer. They’ll be closed Monday May 20th for Victoria Day but otherwise the pool offers a seven day a week schedule including length swim, public swim, aquafit classes, swimming lessons and there is also rental time available. Visit the pool’s Facebook page, email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 250-956-3638 for more information.
All those interested in exploring the software program Sage 50 (Simply Accounting) Community Futures of Mount Waddington has a class starting May 30th. Running for five weeks from 6-9pm the course cost is $150 and covers all the basics with lots of hands on practice. To register or for more information call 250-956-2220
The world Famous African Children’s Choir is coming back to Port McNeill. Over the past 30 years the choir composed of children 7 to 10-years-old has wowed audiences around the world performing traditional hymns with African cultural sounds. Funds raised through concerts and sales of CDs have provided thousands of children with education and leadership skills. https://africanchildrenschoir.com/
Port McNeill Logger Sports Society is celebrating their 10th anniversary. It’s truly amazing to watch all ages (including first timers) take part in timed events including: axe throw, hot saw, springboard and underhand chop. Bring the whole family to this year’s logger sports at the waterfront on Broughton Boulevard just past CAB Auto Parts. For more information visit https://pmloggersports.com/
Word of mouth. Bulletin Boards. Newspaper classified ads. Signs in business windows. A few of the ways ways to find out about local job openings. Another option is North Island Employment Foundation Society (NIEFS) an agency serving the whole North Island. Besides posting jobs with all the details on their website https://www.niefs.net/job-postings counsellors can assist you with a resume, cover letter, interview prep and more. They’re open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm and Tuesdays until 7:30 pm in the Thunderbird Mall on Granville Street in Port Hardy.
Spring has arrived. The day are longer. Warmer. And the sunshine. Is it just me or is everyone smiling lol. Local garden centres are getting ready for their first shipment of flowers. The Volunteer Fire Department is sporting a brand new facade. There are yard renos and road works happening all over town. Things are happening !!
There was big excitement at CFI Gym on Saturday March 16th for the Mount Waddington Special Olympics annual powerlifting competition. The gym is home to the Port McNeill powerlifting group called “Team Chisel” and they welcomed visitors the “Courtenay Crushers” to this year’s exhibition.
Meet Team Chisel: Thomas Tinney “Bam, Bam,” Anthony Schofield “The Hulk,” John Bee “Ninja,” and Dominic Parsons “Dominator”
Family, friends and community members watched the two teams as they competed in squat, bench press and deadlift events. The crowd cheered on the athletes as they made personal bests. John Bee, who weighs 160 pounds smashed his own record on the deadlift picking up an impressive 365 pounds — more than twice his own weight.
Volunteers (including members of the local RCMP detachment) assisted loading the weights, spotting the athletes, judging the lifts, keeping track of scores and serving refreshments and snacks to athletes and spectators.
Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-10am the athletes hit the gym with coaches Chris Stewart and Rob Engel. When asked about his thoughts about the event Coach Engel said:
“It’s all about seeing “the kids have that moment of glory, where they have that recognition, the growth and confidence it gives them makes it all worthwhile.”
Team Chisel is getting ready for a big road trip to the upcoming Special Olympics BC Power Lifting competition in Victoria May 5th.
Looking for a fun night out? Spaghetti Night at the “A-Frame Church” is a regular monthly event and open to the community. Singles, couples and families are all welcome. Dinner is served in the A-Frame Bookstore. RSVP in advance if you can or just show up for a delicious homemade meal.
Come and find out more about Phase 3 of the Rotary Trail at this year’s Spring Fling. The evening includes dinner, entertainment and a live auction with all funds going to the trail extension. And mark your calendar for the annual Rugged & Wild Race on May 4th. Walk, run or bike the 5km or 10km route to raise awareness & funds for the trail.
The epitome of shopping local — the Farmer’s & Artisans Market has a strict make-bake-grow mandate. Always offering a wide variety of edibles like fresh eggs, jam & jellies, produce, pastries and baked goodies along with original art, greeting cards, soaps and and so much more. May 4th the market will be set up at the Rotary Club’s Rugged & Wild Race and then takes place every other Saturday from 10am-2pm until September 24rd at the Port McNeill harbour. Helpful hint: arrive right at 10am for the best selection.
Another popular event is the upcoming Ladies Only event “On the Rocks.” Browse & shop at the 20+ vendor tables, sign up for a spa treatment or sit and visit. The event is licensed and there will be appys for sale.
Not sure where to access what’s happening in Port McNeill? There are some great links on Facebook including:
Who says there isn’t anything to do on the North Island?
Port McNeill Community Events
Shout Out to Port McNeill
Port McNeill & District Chamber of Commerce
Town of Port McNeill
If you’re still kicking it old school there are bulletin boards located at:
Port McNeill Post Office
Port McNeill Laundromat
Many store windows.
Check out this comprehensive list of community and recreation groups on the Town of Port McNeill website:
Pop up retail is a new concept for me. It’s been hovering right there on my periphery but I wasn’t really sure what it meant. Last night at Black Bear Resort in Port McNeill I experienced my first one. Vendors from Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Port Alice, Sointula and Campbell River all gathered together to showcase their merchandise in an intimate setting. Organic marketing with a Facebook event page and posters around town gathered at least 100 customers together for the one night event.
Disclaimer – Megan is my daughter and the main reason I gave up Netflix and a warm fire on a chilly Thursday night. Megan sews baby & toddler toques made from organic cotton and flannel receiving blankets and burp cloths. Our adorable grandson Bowen was her first model and as he grows so does the selection of toque sizes she offers. The patterns are funky coastal with trees, whales, mountains and mermaids.
Michele was the organizer of the event. Meeting with some of the other vendors at Orca Fest in August they kept in touch on Instagram and came up with idea of the pop up in Port McNeill. The lobby and meeting room at Black Bear Resort were packed with displays and they’re already talking about another one next month.
Yes, I was extremely happy to buy a few Christmas gifts at Sandra’s table. I won’t mention what those items are in case that family member reads this post 😉 I can tell you that Sandra sells jewelry, bath salts, body scrubs, cards & gift tags, different sized heatable bean bags and more.
Neva is one of the founding members of North Island Farmer’s Market and she’s a huge supporter of the burgeoning home business movement. Her foaming lavender hand soap is my absolute favourite and anyone who has tried her salsa raves about it. Definitely got a bit of a kick !! Neva is always experimenting with essential oils for her bath bombs and bath soaks.
Things I learned tonight from Jodie & Kirstin. Their product Hempworx is Hemp Oil that people use topically or internally for all sorts of ailments. It’s basically cannabis without the THC and completely legal. There’s loads of information about the product on the official website or ask Jodie & Kirstin directly about buying or selling the line of oils & sprays.
Those yellow pie shaped sheets in the lower left of the photo sparked a very interesting conversation with Belen. They’re used in place of plastic wrap to store leftover fruit and vegetables. The beeswax in them keeps produce fresher, longer and is so much better for the environment. She also had some warm & cozy looking wool socks for sale as well as some cool looking wooden combs and retro plant hangers.
New to the North Island Gabriel has been living in Sointula for ten months. Her jewelry is all hand crafted and the majority of it are one piece originals. Very passionate about her craft Gabriel shared details about some of the stones, wire & process that go into each piece. Sooooo pretty — it’s amazing I walked away with only one small bag. But I know she’ll be back again soon.
My apologies to Deborah that I missed coming back for a proper chat. But reading the business card I can share with our readers that you sell: all shapes and sizes of beeswax candles – pillars, tea lights and wax melts as well as hand dipped taper candles. Also soy wax candles, soaps and bath products.
Young Living Essential Oils has landed on the North Island in a big way. Facebook pages are popping up with instructional videos and “make & take” parties where you learn a bit about oils and make your own foaming soap, bath bombs or rollers. Incredibly versatile oils can be used to make your own household cleaning products, lotions, soaps and rollers. I call one of mine “nighty night” and it smells wonderful !! Laura’s mother-in-law Lynda Biggs is an incredible artist. I’ve seen her floral arrangements and and canvas paintings but last night she was displaying painted tiles. Vibrant North Island vignettes of scenery and flowers. She’s also looking for students for a limited class in tile painting scheduled for the new year.
Michelle sells Lip Sense. It’s a water proof, smudge proof long lasting lipstick. Seriously you can put it on and rub your lips and there won’t be one tiny bit of residue on your fingers. An amazing array of colours – it’s very popular with busy moms. You can eat, drink and carry on with your day without worrying about reapplying. Megan & Michelle shared their table and were joined by their friend Jaylene. Heartwarming that these three young moms have known each other since elementary school, are married and have children. I’m so proud to be a 3-generation family in Port McNeill.
Stay tuned for the next Pop Up Port McNeill Shopping Night sometime in December. An event page will show up on Facebook. Other vendors have already approached the organizers so get ready to do some Christmas shopping !!
“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.
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 daystore. 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.
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.”
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.”