Despite the gray, winter, weather in Port Alberni these days, the sun is always shining in GT Vintage Parlour on Argyle Street.
This is due, in no small part, to the owner and designer, Sarah Williams. Williams’ wares are colourful and edgy, and not unlike the winter, the store projects a feeling of delightful and exciting things to come.
Williams is a local girl, born and raised in Port Alberni. She returned from a 10-year retail management and fashion buying career in Vancouver when Gramma’s Trunk went up for sale two and a half years ago.
“Gramma’s Trunk was my favourite store when I was growing up here,” says Williams.
“When I saw that it was up for sale, I jumped at the chance to move back to my hometown and start a business of my own.”
The “GT” in GT Vintage Parlour is a tribute to Gramma’s Trunk, but the merchandise has changed since the Gramma’s Trunk days.
“I continue to sell, the vintage treasures of Gramma’s Trunk, but have added vintage and vintage-look fashion accessories, some more ‘eclectic’ treasures, as well as accessories that I have designed and created myself.”
Williams’ designs centre around fashion accessories, and, in particular, hair bands, fascinators (think royal wedding headpieces) and hair clips.
Her accessories are all handmade and they are garnering attention in the Vancouver fashion world.
Williams’ accessories will be featured in the next edition of Wedding Bells magazine, and she is currently filming a guest spot on The Wedding Belles, a cable television show in Vancouver. The magazine and television show features Williams’ more extravagant headpieces and couture items.
Despite her off-Island popularity, Williams is determined to stay put in Port Alberni.
“I’ve been speaking to the city about leasing space at Harbour Quay,” says Williams.
“I hand-delivered a letter to city hall last December and left some samples of my work for everyone to see.
“I am hopeful that I can convince city officials to open one of two units in Harbour Quay that are currently being used as storage for the Farmer’s Market.
“If you are going to go anywhere in Port Alberni to get the tourist market, Harbour Quay is the place to be,” Williams says. “We need to make sure that retail space is being used for retail space.”
In addition to pursuing a move to a more prominent location for her product, Williams is considering a merger with another local business.
This merger, if it is successful, would mean one-stop shopping for those looking for upscale clothing to match with Williams’ accessory line.
“If negotiations with the landlord go well, you can expect to see a re-vamp of my downtown business in the very near future,” she says.