By Andrea Arnold
Whistle Stop Gallery
The Whistle Stop Gallery, located in the McBride train station, is run alongside the visitor information centre. It is approaching its 10 year anniversary operating under its current format. According to gallery general manager Dannielle Alan, the local artists took over the gallery in February 2002, with 37 artists. Currently they showcase the talents of 97 Robson Valley artisans.
Photography, jewellery, pottery, fibre arts products, wood carvings and art, natural skin products, cards, and clothing are just a small sampling of the items that are available at the gallery.
The location of the gallery, next to the Beanery 2 and where passengers disembark the train, provides a good flow of possible customers. Alan reports that in 2022, they sold 2,999 locally made items as of the end of November.
Since the artist takeover in 2002, the gallery has brought in close to one million dollars in revenue into the valley, in sales of locally made goods.
“We are at $987,196 in revenue from sold artisan items as of the end of November,” said Alan. “When we include all sources of revenue, grant money, membership fees and other small revenue generators, we have brought in over two million dollars in almost 10 years.”
Any resident of McBride, Valemount and Area H, who has joined the non-profit Whistle Stop Gallery Society, and pays an annual membership fee qualifies to have their wares in the gallery.
Valemount – Mountain Driftwood Gallery
Valemount’s Mountain Driftwood Gallery is run as a cooperative. For the past five years, the artists take shifts working at the current 5th ave location.
Bonnie Marklund, owner and artist, says that they currently have 25 vendors working and selling their products at the gallery.
“95 per cent of our product is handmade, local product” said Marklund.
At any given time, they have wooden items, yarn products, paintings, games, jewellery, fish hooks, cards, metal items, jams, jellies, honey, bags and purses.
Right now, the gallery has a variety of Christmas specific items. They plan to be open 11-4 until the end of the week. They will be closed from the 24th until mid May.
Marklund opened the gallery because she needed a place to showcase her own work. However, she didn’t want to only have her work.
“We opened up the gallery to other artists,” she said. “It is a gallery, and gift shop. We also have a few second hand items. We want it to remain as local as possible.”
The gallery will be accepting new vendors when they reopen, providing the items are unique, not oversaturating any specific product type.
Interested vendors can contact Marklund at 1-250-566-3065 or [email protected].
McBride – Mountainview Boutique
Mountainview Boutique on McBride main street is a new addition to the options that local artisans have for a sales location. When shop owner Gina Gallacher opened at the end of July 2021 the store’s stock was about 25 percent locally created items, with five artisans using the space. Now, about 16 months later, the shop is local product heavy with 17 artisans, creating a 60/40 percent split between local and wholesale items.
“Many people contribute more than one style or use more than one type of material,” said Gallacher.
Gallacher has been a huge supporter of shopping locally for a long time, even before opening the Boutique. She has been excited to see the Christmas shopping season start earlier this year. She thinks it is because the shop has become more established and people know they are a shopping option. Both this year and last year, she has had issues with shipping, resulting in less wholesale options and she has been thrilled to offer the local products.
“I have always had a soft spot for home based businesses,” she said. “I have had a dream to provide a space. I wish my whole stock could be locally made.”
However, due to space, she is at her inventory max at this time.
The Mountainview Boutique will be closing a bit early on Christmas Eve, at 6:00pm, and reopening on Wed Dec 28.
Valemount Visitors Centre
The Valemount Visitors Centre has 22 consignment artists work for sale within their space. They have provided local artisans the space to showcase and sell their work since the Village of Valemount took over the centre’s operations in 2018.
They carry a variety of locally made items such as card photography, stickers, books, fleece wear, fabric items, artwork, woodwork, coffee, fish hooks and natural skin care.
“We have a good variety of many talented local artists,” said Orlanda Tassone, Visitor Centre Coordinator. “We are always looking for more artists to sell through the centre.”
The Visitor Centre will be operating its regular hours until Fri Dec 23 at noon. They will re-open on Jan 3. They plan to be open year round, and possibly extend hours into the weekend during the summer months.