Buy local this Christmas: Here’s where to shop in New Westminster

This is a guest post by Sheila Keenan, a local blogger who has committed to shopping only in New Westminster for one year. She is chronicling her experiences on her blog, My Year of Shopping Locally. If you have some local shopping tips for Sheila (and the rest of us!) please share your suggestions in the comments!

Presents around a Christmas tree.
Presents around a Christmas tree.

I like Christmas presents that get used up or used often. My husband just brought up the Christmas decorations from our crawl space and somehow we’ve become the kind of people who have 13 Rubbermaid containers full of them. (13!) Trying to find room for everything made me realize how cluttered our house is getting, so I’m not into giving or receiving gifts that are just going to take up more space.  Since I’ve committed to shopping locally for a year, I’m also interested in finding gifts that are made as locally as possible. Here are some of the places I will be doing my Christmas shopping this year.

Van Dop Gallery 421 Richmond Street

I wasn’t sure how the gallery would fit with my “use it up or use it often” philosophy, but it’s hosting  “Spirit of the Season” open houses every weekend before Christmas, so the gallery is full of lots of extra goodies, like soap and candles. Besides, I think art does get “used” often—if it’s in your home, you get to enjoy it every day.
It was my first time visiting the gallery. I think I have been hesitant to go because I thought art must equal expensive, but I found a wide range of prices.
There’s also a wide range of things to look at, from silver-plated salad servers with a Tsimshian First Nations design to the bright and colourful art of Grant Leier to charming “tinsel” ornaments. I went through each room twice and I’m glad I did because I saw many things I hadn’t spotted on my first go-round. I’m planning to return next Saturday too, when three jewellers, including Joanna Lovett, will be in attendance.

Queen’s Park Florist 619 Carnarvon St.

I was so pleased to find out Queen’s Park Florist is offering workshops this Christmas season. I’d like to do the Christmas garland one. There are also workshops to create a Christmas planter, flower arrangement and wreath centrepiece, which would all make lovely gifts. Cost is $40, which includes materials. Register by Dec. 1.

Black Bond Books at Royal City Centre 610 Sixth St.

Books are always on my Christmas shopping list. Black Bond Books is one of the few remaining independent book stores left in the Lower Mainland. Their New West store has a regional section with some New Westminster titles such as Royal City: A Photographic History of New Westminster, 1858–1960 by Jim Wolf and The Life and Destruction of Saint Mary’s Hospital by New Westminster author and city councillor Jaimie McEvoy. There weren’t any copies of A New Westminster Album: Glimpses of the City as it Was by local historians Gavin Hainsworth and Katherine Freund-Hainsworth in the store when I visited, but it is a title they also usually carry.

Giving an experience is a good way to ensure your gift doesn’t end up collecting dust in a corner.

Pacific Breeze Winery 6-320 Stewardson Way

Pacific Breeze Winery has intriguing sounding “Private Tasting” packages that start at $25 per person for a minimum of four people. Contact Meaghan Spencer at ( 604) 880-0582 or by e-mail at meaghan@pacificbreezewinery.com for information on how to book. The winery also has a wine club and sells gift baskets.

Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours #139 – 810 Quayside Drive (east side of Fraser River Discovery Centre)

I used to work at an office on the Quay and I loved watching the river from my window. There was always something interesting going on—barges going by, tugboats pulling endlessly long log booms, seals splashing around during fish runs. This year, I’m planning to take my family on a river boat tour so we can get a view of the Fraser while actually on the Fraser. There are several Christmas season cruises available and the 2011 schedule is already posted online if you are interested in purchasing a gift certificate for someone to use later.

There are many unique boutiques in New West, which Tenth to the Fraser has explored before , but here are two more worth visiting.

Essence Home Decor Suite 118 – 960 Quayside Drive (next to Inn at the Quay)

Owner Lorna Stewart has stocked her store with many local and Canadian items, including crackers from Gone Crackers and Edible Gardens oils, vinegars and spreads, along with a good selection of Olde World Fudge products. There’s also funky jewellery by Canadian designers like Anne Marie Chagnon of Montreal and Canadian-made handbags.

Fraser River Discovery Centre 788 Quayside Drive

The Fraser River Discovery Centre has a small, but well curated gift shop that includes many local and Canadian-made items including art, jewellery (cool glass rings!), candles and Bramies soft leather baby and toddler shoes. Celina Strachan, FRDC’s Operations Assistant, said her goal is to eventually have most of the items in the store be from artisans who live along the Fraser River.

Hyack the Holidays: Gifts for Kids

With a DS- and Pokemon-obsessed eight-year-old stepson, a two-year-old whose alter ego is Prince Philip the Knight and a newborn girl I’m looking forward to spoil, I’ve had a personal interest in finding good local Christmas gifts & activities for kiddies.

Here’s where I’ve been shopping for gifts for my kids here in New West. (Hint: Sapperton is the place to be!)

Pedagogy Toys, 424 East Columbia St.

Pedagogy Toys at 434 Columbia St., New Westminster.
Pedagogy Toys in New Westminster.

If  cartoon character-branded toys turn you off, look here for toys for your toddler to preteen. Pedagogy has loads of family games, including some for as young as three, science & craft kids for older kids, handmade Christmas Crackers and loads of stocking stuffer toys. I particularly like the WOW Toys line of friction-powered cars & trucks for toddlers (my son is enthralled with the fire truck, as you will read below ….) and the build-your-own marble run by Quadrilla. Pedagogy also carries Settlers of Catan, among other excellent games.

Unlike Toys-R-Us, Pedagogy is actually kid-friendly: there’s a play table in the back with a small selection of toys to keep small kids busy while you shop.

Owner Karen Smecher has a pack of small children at home, and so she is savvy to the travails of mothers shopping with toddlers. The first time I took my son there, I hadn’t cottoned on to the magic of the timer (i.e. a warning that when the timer on my phone goes, it’s time to leave) and, typically two, my sweet Wesley was on the verge of an all-out tantrum to protest being taken away from playing with Ernie the Fire Truck. Karen swooped in to the rescue with the offer of a ‘pocket penguin’ to take home. She strategically positioned herself and the bucket of tiny penguin figurines by the door, and after he chose his penguins (one for each hand, of course) he was so preoccupied with taking them in and out of his pockets that he didn’t protest at all at being ushered out the door. Now that’s service.

Next to Pedagogy, you’ll find Kids Kloset (420 East Columbia St.), a consignment store that also has new clothing and accessories for sale. I find Kids Kloset a bit crowded, but they have some adorable rain gear for toddlers and last time I was in, I was admiring the stylish diaper bags & lunch bags for Mom.

A few other gift ideas I had for kids in the Sapperton area:

If you’re shopping for a little girl, you should mosey on over to 12th St. and  check out Kiss A Frog (948 12th St.) too. While they carry toys and clothing suitable for both girls and boys, they have a stunning selection of girls’ party dresses and fancy accessories that will make you melt – not to mention light up your daughter’s eyes when she sees it! You can also find Melissa & Doug style wooden toys here, and some unusual kids’ things. This is where Santa has sourced the miniature accordion and wind-up dino Wesley will find under the tree Christmas Day, for example.

Clever Mink’s (711 Carnarvon), one of our sponsors, often has toys among their selection of eclectic gifts. Last year I bought a lovely wooden train puzzle/pull-toy for Wesley there.

Parents of Lego maniacs should also stop by Shamryn Hobbies (612 Carnarvon St.) for an impressive selection of Lego kits, model trains and (oddly) Webkinz. Plus, there’s a pre-Christmas sale on right now and everything in the store is 20-30% off.

I also did a local crafter search on Etsy, and found a couple of neat gift ideas made right here in New West:

If shopping online is more your style, Pinky & Company, run by local mom of two Alix Cote (also a sponsor of our blog), sells baby leggings, ironic T-shirts for toddlers, diaper bags for dads, ‘hooter hiders’ for nursing moms and more.

Hyack the Holidays

CNW Truck, photo by waferboard via flickr
CNW Truck, by soulstealer, via flickr

It started off as a brainstorming session in which the editorial staff were sitting around ruminating about shopping locally over a glass of wine (or four). We started coming up with our favourites here in New West, stores that are hidden treasures and gems of awesomeness and started feeling pretty good about not having to leave the city to find a gift for everyone on your list. That conversation has evolved into a special series we’re calling Hyack the Holidays that we will be kicking off today. We invite Tenth readers to chime in with your favourites and suggestions.

Sometimes it’s easy to get drawn into shopping meccas and big box stores with their promises of constant stock levels, super sales and staff to greet you at the door. We believe that a city is what you make of it, and we’re hoping we can help make local business better by presenting alternatives that you don’t even need to leave home to find.

Happy Holidays from all of us here at Tenth to the Fraser.

Hyack the Holidays: Our New Westminster local shopping gift guide