ADSS students Emma Audet and Faith Holmquist join Walk the Coast manager Sarah Jones in setting up the display window after the students won a design competition. Sonja Drinkwater photo

BUSINESS BEAT: New entrepreneurs investing in Port Alberni

Portal Curios and Oddities opening in Harbour Quay

TERESA BIRD

ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS

New entrepreneurs are investing in Port Alberni because they like what they see here: small town vibe, great lifestyle and opportunity.

Sheenagh Walker saw opportunity when she saw the “For Sale” sign in Boutique Belles Amies’ window. Well-dressed women all over town were worried the store would close in December when Linda Bowers retired. But Walker has changed all that.

Originally from Ontario, Walker moved to Ucluelet in 2003 and recently moved to the Valley from Ucluelet, looking for a change.

Walker says she “always envisioned owning a retail store, and in particular a lingerie store. It’s a natural fit for me.” Walker has a diverse background with experience in retail, service, education and business.

“I like the business model Linda had where she helps the community with special events, giving money back to the community,” says Walker who plans to continue such events. “That is very much in line with my values and sense of community.”

For customers worried their favourite items may no longer be available, fear not.

“First of all, I will keep what has been successful for Boutique Belles Amies,” says Walker. “Over time I will develop my own style, but in the meantime Linda is staying around to help with the transition and with the fashion show and special events people look forward to. Linda and I have a great relationship. She’s my mentor.”

New stock has already arrived in store, in preparation for the holidays. Drop by the shop in the Carmoor Block at Argyle and Kingsway. www.boutiquebellesamies.com

•••

Just down the street, Andrew Perkins and Elizabeth Matthews have opened Portal Curios & Oddities on the corner spot under the Harbour Quay sign.

Perkins and Matthews spent 10 years in Squamish, but have been on the Island for a couple years and moved to Port Alberni in July.

“We came up to visit a friend and just loved it,” says Perkins. “Only thing Port Alberni suffers from is a bad reputation. Port Alberni is so friendly. Everyone has been very welcoming.”

Matthews, who is from Australia, has a background in hospitality, while Perkins has owned a number of different businesses including the iconic Doodle Art, which is available in the store.

Art of all kinds is really at the heart of the store. It’s an eclectic mix of new and old art, collectables and more.

“This is something we always wanted to do. We have always loved art, we collect art and we like the unusual,” says Perkins. The couple particularly wants to promote local artists.

They plan to feature artists with exhibits of their work, changing about every six weeks.

“We want locals and visitors to have an opportunity to see what’s local, to experience a local bit of culture,” explains Perkins.

The first featured artist will be Shayne Lloyd. The opening night on Dec. 1 will feature music by Julliard-trained cellist Audrey Nadeau, who is new to the community from New York City.

And also for music lovers, in the back corner of the store there are bins of vinyl records that will get collectors salivating.

“We have access to about 10,000 albums, we have about 2,000 here at the moment,” says Perkins. “We will see how it goes. We envision that space could be a pop-up shop opportunity, too.”

They also envision an espresso bar and other innovations as the store develops. Find Portal Curios & Oddities on Facebook and at www.theportalshop.ca

•••

Jennifer Anderson also saw an opportunity for a change when she followed her partner Notary Public Matt Dearin to Port Alberni from Victoria about a year ago.

“I love the Alberni Valley, all the trails, the lake,” says Anderson. “Best summer I have had in a long time. It’s a great lifestyle and affordable.”

She left a job with the provincial government, and was thinking about what she would do next, when she walked into AV Financial.

“What brought me in the door was we needed personal life insurance when we bought a house,” says Anderson. Owner Aaron Vissia had been seeking another financial advisor for his office. Anderson seized the chance to start a new career. She recently completed her courses and now has her mutual fund license, life insurance license and is a financial securities advisor.

“This is a much more positive industry than where I was before,” she says. “I really enjoy working with people, helping people succeed.”

Anderson says her next goal is to become a Certified Financial Planner, like her mentor.

“It’s great to have a mentor in Aaron and the staff are very supportive. I really do love this office,” says Anderson.

In the meantime, she can help clients with retirement, investment and insurance planning.

Call AV Financial at 250-724-9745 or see www.avfinancial.ca.

•••

And while all this new business is going on, there is a lot to celebrate in well-established businesses.

Over at Little Bavaria, they are celebrating Chef Ana Sumecki who has been creating all that wonderful schnitzel and more at the iconic restaurant for 35 years. Sumecki was recently honoured at a celebration with staff by owner Kathy Krznaric with flowers and a plaque marking the milestone.

•••

There are some faces in new places at Alberni Toyota. Wynita Jaworksi became the sales manager at the beginning of October. Also coming on board Oct. 1 was Chris Tessier, new service manager for the service department. You may recognize him when you go in for servicing—he previously worked at Port Boat House.

•••

SS Cocktails is celebrating their first anniversary. Owner Shawn Steed has invested in the bar at the Beaufort Hotel, cleaning it up, redecorating and adding events, promotions and live music nights to draw a crowd to the spacious lounge. Find SS Cocktails on Facebook for latest events and promos.

•••

Walk the Coast’s (WTC) manager Sarah Jones was very pleased to choose ADSS Grade 12 students Emma Audet and Faith Holmquist to design and build a display in the showcase window under the Walk The Coast awning on Elizabeth Street.

“WTC has worked with ADSS art teacher Anne Ostwald’s class to create a display in our front show case,” says Jones. “I hosted students here at the store to give them a chance to view the space and see the store. They were then given specs and an end date to create a proof of concept. One display was then chosen and the students had to create the structures within the space and install it.

“The students will receive a letter of recommendation from me regarding the whole process so that they can use that in their portfolio as well as the photos of the finished product,” said Jones.

The winning students’ concept was to show the transition from fall into winter, stop by to view it. www.walkthecoast.ca.

teresa.bird@albernivalleynews.com

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Elizabeth Matthews and Andrew Perkins enjoy a break from opening their new shop Portal Curios & Oddities at the entrance to Harbour Quay. Teresa Bird photo

Sheenagh Walker and Linda Bowers celebrate Walker’s new ownership of Boutique Belles Amies. Sonja Drinkwater photo

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