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