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.
No sooner had a collective sigh of relief gone up after the 8+ month logging strike on Vancouver Island ended when Covid-19 hit. Businesses, school and churches across Canada were forced to close their doors during the first wave of the pandemic. While waiting for the okay to reopen, St. John Gualbert Church in Port McNeill quickly regrouped and rethought the way they deliver programs to the community. Some of the regular programs like choir and weekly potluck lunches were shelved indefinitely. Others like Sunday services were revised with strict Covid guidelines. And funding was applied for and received for new programs like a monthly lunch for seniors called Picnic in the Park.
Founded in 1963 St. John Gualbert Church has always been known as a true community church. In the early days the church was shared by many denominations including: Anglican, United and Catholic. In 1972 the church became what’s known as an Anglican-United Fellowship. The name St. John Gualbert originates from Saint Giovanni Gualberto the patron saint of forestry workers.
In a serendipitous conversation with a church board member months ago, Leslie Dyck who is the North Island Staff Coordinator for a program called Loaves and Fishes based in Nanaimo forged a relationship with the church. Originally delivering only to Port Hardy the food distribution program now includes Port McNeill twice a month.
Peter Sinclair, is the executive Director of Loaves & Fishes Food Bank in Nanaimo. He explains, “usually a food bank means food scarcity but Loaves & Fishes find they have an over abundance of food.” Providing a brief snapshot of the program Sinclair says, “in 2011 the program gave out $800,000 worth of food. In 2012 the program added food recovery meaning food that would have otherwise been thrown away. Sinclair adds, in 2019 that number rose to $4.6 million and this year he anticipates it will top $5 million.
Deborah Murray, an appointed Church Elder at St. John Gualbert, explains that every second Wednesday the church offers food to whoever needs or wants it. Echoing Sinclair’s assertion, “it is not a food bank. This is food distribution. We don’t hang on to any of it. And you don’t have to qualify or sign up.” Word quickly spread organically by word of mouth as well as through notices on social media. Local grocery store IGA donates food to the program and during the summer months local residents also donated excess garden produce.
Along with Loaves & Fishes the church provides a hot take-out dinner program twice a month. Again Murray is quick to point out there are no rules as to who can participate, “the meals are for everyone at no charge but donations are accepted.” Serving 40 to 80 people, the dinners are homemade, hearty & healthy and packaged to go.
Another North Island connection in Victoria prompted a group called Soap for Hope to reach out to the church. A non-profit group, Soap for Hope provides hygiene kits in BC & Alberta to food banks, schools, low income seniors and First Nations communities. So far two shipments have been delivered to Port McNeill that include: soap, hair care products, body wash & lotion, toothbrushes and deodorant. Organizers have developed a way to get freight here at no cost through someone who works in Port Hardy but lives in Victoria. Murray adds, “if there is a specific request such as dog food or teen snacks the group will try their best to help.”
Here are a few ways you can help St. John Gualbert’s community programs:
⁃ Donate books to A-Frame Bookstore. Books for all ages are donated and the bookstore is run by volunteers 6 day a week.
⁃ Buy a Christmas tree (an annual church fundraiser)
⁃ Help your community with cash or food items
⁃ Attend the mini Christmas Craft Fair at the church Dec. 5th from 10am-2pm
For more information contact the church at 250.956.3533
On Facebook at: St. John Anglican United Church or A-Frame Bookstore
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: email@example.com 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 !!
Always on the hunt for the next story I asked a friend if she had suggestions on which local business I could approach. Her immediate and enthusiastic response was Kirstin Baron from Green Baron Gardening. And then that thing happened. It happens to me all the time. That new name now on my radar keeps cropping up — on Facebook and in conversations.
Busy people, busy lives. It just wasn’t working out for Kirstin and I to meet face-to-face so she kindly answered my questions by email. Horror of all horrors they were lost in space the first time she sent them. I’m grateful she gave it another go — second time was the charm !!
A wonderful example of entrepreneurial spirit, I’ll let Kirstin tell you in her own words how a serendipitous gift gardening of tools, tremendous community support and an encouraging business mentor have all resulted in success.
Why are you in this type of business?
Because I had the schooling and work experience, and I saw a real need for it in our town!
What is your background, education, work experience?
My education background is in horticulture. I took 3 years of the Horticulture Apprentice course at Kwantlen College, focusing more on the greenhouse industry than landscaping. I also worked for a few nurseries during that time, in Surrey, Aldergrove and Nanaimo.
Can you provide me with a description of your business?
Yes, we are primarily a landscaping business, but have included other exterior services such as gutter cleaning and pressure washing homes and driveways.
How long have you been in business? In this business? In other businesses?
This is our second year in business as the Green Baron Gardening, and our first business!
How did you get started in this business?
I actually received a gift for a birthday a few years back that included some gardening tools and a wheelbarrow, as I was thinking about starting a gardening business at that time. So I used what I had and started slowly working casually for friends and family.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
I believe a lot of it came from my schooling and work experience in the greenhouses. Some of it I learned as I went, and a few skills may have been bred into me, as my grandfather, mother and her siblings all have a green thumb.
Do you know who your competitors are?
Yes but I don’t consider them competitors. So far I have had a wonderful relationship with them, and we work together to help each other.
How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business?
Our main form of advertising is through our Facebook business page, but I have found that word of mouth may have been the biggest form of awareness for us!
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?
I see our business growing and diversifying to meet the needs of our clients on the North Island. It’s already changed so much from what I thought it would be. I also see my daughter taking over in the next 10 years — at least that’s what she wants. She has her mind made up already!
Whom do you seek advice from for your business?
First and foremost my business mentor. He’s been a great source of knowledge and encouragement. I also seek advice from my aunt who owns a large nursery in Lone Butte, my mom who is incredibly knowledgeable about all things garden, and my dad and 2 brothers who are also entrepreneurs.
Do you have employees? How many?
Not at this time, but we had 5 employees over the spring and summer. They were all wonderful!
Can you describe your customers?
Most of our customers are busy business owners themselves or work full-time and just don’t have the extra time to tend to their gardens or home exterior. Some are new moms or people who have injured themselves and need some extra help. I find a lot of our customers have one or 2 overwhelming projects that they want our help with.
What are the biggest issues for running this business?
Weather is probably the biggest issue! There are a few things we can still do in the rain but it makes most of our work very difficult.
What is the future for this type of business?
I think the future is bright as long as we work with our customers and their budget to provide quality services. There seems to be a need for these services.
What has been your greatest moment of success?
I really feel most successful when our customers are happy, and loving the work we’ve done.
What do you do to recharge when you’re feeling drained?
Taking a whole day off here and there to just relax is what I need! This type of work is hard on the body!
Can you share strategies for making the best use of your time?
Turn off the tv and close Facebook!
On October 20th at the Port McNeill & District Chamber of Commerce Recognition of Excellence Awards Gala I was taking pictures for the Chamber of Commerce. Jon Lok from Strategic Natural Resource Consultants was the presenter for New Small Business of the Year Award.
“This business is said to show excellent workmanship, care of their clients and great community spirit. This business has grown in the past year and now has several employees. They deliver quality work and always looks to layer new products to their business in order to remain sustainable. They understand the concept of starting small and growing with demand. The winner of the New Business of the Year award is: The Green Baron Gardening Services.”
Since I first approached Kirstin about this article, her husband Matt power-washed & removed pounds of disgusting gunk from our gutters. Two more names to add to their expanding list of happy customers !!
Their services include: weeding, mowing, spring & fall clean-up, pruning, landscaping, yard waste removal, sod, lawn care, sweeping & line painting of parking lots, pressure washing buildings & driveways.
“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.