Shopping local is good for the soul

This is a guest post by Brad Howard of Clever Mink’s, a great little gift shop at 711 Carnarvon St. If you’ve got an idea for a guest post, go ahead and drop us a line

Having never blogged before I found the idea daunting so I sought out some friends’ opinions. Some said you’ve got to open big to grab the reader. You’ve only got 4.3 seconds of their attention (that might be last year’s figure, this year’s is doubtlessly shorter) or they’ll move on to something splashier. Make ’em laugh or make ’em cry. Talk about how to get crazy good sex or how to lose weight in an hour or about how to find inner peace but in a really fun and exciting way.

Others suggested it would be better for me to start small but be authoritative by sticking to a narrow topic that I know extremely well. Cleaning out a cat box comes to mind as does muttering to myself when stuck in traffic. Hard to imagine though, how either of those will stoke the fires of passion and controversy that fuel this strange critter known as the blogosphere. Even the word “blogosphere” seems a bit foreign to me, rolling awkwardly off my tongue like when I try to work rechereche into a conversation.

I am non-digerati, growing up in a time when computers were only seen on TV shows where they always occupied an entire room, were covered in rapidly spinning spools for some reason, and were often at work in some nefarious world-threatening plot. Or sometimes they were saving the world from said plot but suffice to say there was generally a plot involved. Cut to the present and the whole computer thing turned out to be more about letting a bunch of regular people express their thoughts and try to be interesting doing it. I’m not sure I’m up to that.

Clever Mink’s is a gift shop with a funny name and, like as not, you’ve never heard of us. The fault for that is on us, of course, with our marketing plan that relied perhaps too heavily on mental telepathy and optimism. Nevertheless, we do exist and we do most of our existing right here in New West. Proudly so, not only as new business owners and residents in town but as new immigrants to this country.

We left the States, Bush refugees we have been called and worse, a tad over a year ago to venture into this lush green (sometimes white) land of yours with a plan firmly in mind to try to do something fun. And fun it has been, as only the commitment of a good chunk of one’s savings into a strange new business during the most perilous of economic times can be fun. Other words leap to mind as well but fun is really the pick of that litter.

We decided to open our humble establishment during the dead of summer and on a street, we only subsequently learned, that had a city-wide reputation as being a great place to avoid ever going. Luckily for us our new neighbors at The Hideout Cafe, Shamryn’s Hobby Shop, Queen’s Park Florist, and the many others hereabout have welcomed us warmly and made us feel at home in this spot. Best of all have been our great customers, those stalwart few who’ve bucked the area’s bad rep and actually managed to find us and have begun to spread the word about us far better than we ever could do ourselves. A big shout-out and thanks to you all.

Now I can’t say as it’ll improve your sex life or help you lose weight or give you that exciting version of inner peace you’ve been looking for, but shopping local stores is good for the soul, no doubt about it. And good for the town.

It may be an old idea but a town needs to be more than a mere collection of homes where working people rest their heads. Any town worthy of its name, especially one that possesses the rich history and character that ours does, needs its shops and markets, pubs, eateries, theatres and galleries in order to remain vibrant and liveable.

We like to think that someday soon all of us will look back at 2008 as the beginning of a renaissance in the downtown core, the time when New West decided to reclaim its place as the jewel on the banks of the Fraser river. But then we have to be optimists- we’re business owners. Happy Holidays to all.

Come visit us at 711 Carnarvon St. or online at

Ask for Nancy or her sidekick Brad.

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And Now for Something Completely Different…

Followup on our favourite Arbologger’s post about the Coca-Cola Santa, here’s another ‘Beta’ Santa, perhaps soooo proto that it’s ‘Alpha!’

Prepare for a New Westminster Holiday Tradition, the arrival of Sinter Klaas to open the holiday season. Children will wait in anticipation on the Quay boardwalk for Sinterklaas and the Black Peters to arrive – you can help your 2 year old to chant like the Dutch kids do, ‘Zie ginds komt de stoomboot uit Spanje weer aan…’ (See there the steamship from Spain is coming again…) to welcome Sinterklaas on his traditional mode of transportation – the steamboat (in New West, our Paddlewheeler.) Apparently, our local celebration is the last one in North America in which Sinterklaas still has a traditional arrival by boat. Check out the tradition of SinterKlaas and I think you’ll see that he is the real Santa 1.0.

The big day is this Saturday, December 6th, the actual feast day of St. Nicholas (though the traditional Netherlands Sinterklaas day is celebrated on the eve of his Feast Day). Sinteklaas will arrive at New Westminster’s boardwalk as he has for will greet the children gathered there – and if my childhood is any indication, he will give out small, hard bits of gingerbread and salty licorice and will cuddle you silently in the midst of a December downpour.

Among the Sinterklaas Welkom onlookers now are parents who in 1985 as children were present for the first arrival. The event remains a top attraction for the public market on the Fraser River bank.
Right from the start 19 years ago, local officials, MPs, MLAs, the Mayor and sometimes all councilors [sic] (and even a Premier), have been on hand to welcome the Spanish bishop. In particular councillor Casey Cook, who fondly remembers Sinterklaas calling on his hometown The Hague when he was a boy, has been there as a dignitary for years. One year he remarked that none in the crowd of onlookers seemed more excited than the grandparents.

More to be seen at
Full schedule at