Rediscover local and reconnect to community and nature this holiday season in Port Alberni, with these Vancouver Island entrepreneurs, artisans and cafés. Support local this Christmas!
It’s been said that Port Alberni is the heart of Vancouver Island and when it comes to the holiday season it’s also a one-stop shopping destination. Beyond the mall, beyond Amazon, you can pick up nifty gifts for everyone on your list from these women-led, Island-owned businesses.
Getting away from the malls and the screens in the Alberni Valley allows Christmas shoppers another seasonal bonus: reconnecting – to community, and to nature. Pair your Christmas to-do list with some time outside with friends to feel that festive spirit grow.
Of course you’re going to need to fuel up before a day of hitting the shops and the best place to do so is at Wildflower Cafe (5047 Argyle St, Port Alberni) located in the Uptown area.
“We saw a lot of opportunity in this town,” says co-owner Allie Lee, who opened up her businesses in October of 2020. “What we wanted to do was create a space where the community could come and be a part of, somewhere they could make a part of their daily routine and meet with friends.”
Come for the cozy, comfort classics, and stay for the brioche donuts and pizzas. Wildflower Cafe also has a small shop space up front that features Vancouver Island products like Drumroaster Coffee beans, The Hobbyist candles, Westholme tea, and the Wildflower’s own chili sauces and salts.
FLANDANGLES & GIBSON’S FINE LINENS
Just a few steps from the Wildflower you’ll find a dynamic duo of shops – Flandangles and Gibson’s Fine Linens (3036 3rd Ave, Port Alberni).
Owner Chris Washington bought Flandangles — which sells a huge selection of kitchenware, cooking supplies, tableware, and more — six years ago and the business itself has been around for over 40 years. In 2019, she expanded to include Gibson’s Fine Linens next door to fill a need in town for bed, bath and linen (beyond a big multinational box store).
“We’ve expanded our stock tremendously because we don’t want people to have go out of town … so we always have lots of options. If you want a teapot you don’t just have a choice of one or two, we give you a dozen.”
Chris is living her dream job and loves coming to work everyday, and you can tell from the attention to detail, the product offerings and the stunning holiday displays at this time of year.
“I’m always looking for different things,” Chris adds. “I like to stay on top of the trends. Just because we’re a small town doesn’t mean we have to be behind the times.”
In between awe-inspiring festive displays and cool curated gift selections, take a nature break as a palate cleanser before you sink your teeth into the next dish.
Port Alberni has multiple waterfalls you can hike to just minutes from the city.
THE FUNK TRUNK
When you roll into a shop and immediately spot a stylish display featuring brands your favourite Instagram influencer is wearing in a post you just liked, you know you’re in the right place. At The Funk Trunk (4920 Cherry Creek rd, Port Alberni) you’ll find Gently Fawn leggings, Matt & Nat vegan leather bags and accessories, Smash + Tess rompers and a Mavi Jeans wall.
“The shacket is the huge thing right now – it’s in between a jacket and a sweater,” says owner Susan Kozlowski. She keeps on top of the trends and brings in the latest and greatest styles. She opened The Funk Trunk 15 years ago, completing a lifelong dream to own her own fashion boutique.
Even if you don’t have certain items on your shopping list, you’ll be inspired by their displays. A sparkly top might pull you in, then you immediately spot the complimentary I Love Tyler Madison pants and Dex Black Faux Leather Hoodie Moto Jacket on the adjacent hangers and you’ve got a complete outfit ready to go. The Funk Trunk also recently began offering small decor items and accessories like the super popular Tofino Towels.
Gayle Stephen-Player has always had a passion for fitness and fashion, two things she has combined in her business Gayle’s Fashions (5262 Argyle St, Port Alberni) since 1983. At her South Port shop, which she runs with her daughter Rebecca, she curates a collection of ready-to-wear comfort clothing along with dance wear and accessories which stays true to her roots as an aerobics fashion designer.
“We like to bring in a really eclectic, interesting, but fun and wearable selection of clothing,” says Gayle. “We don’t want people to buy stuff that they think — ‘oh it’s so pretty’ — and it will hang in their closet but they’re not going to pull it out and put it on, and go! That’s what we’re into. Layers, comfy, but on trend.”
The fitness side of the store caters to dancers, ice skaters and gymnasts. “We bring in what we like, what they think is wearable, and fun!” Gayle also says shackets are this season’s hot item, along with “coatigans” which are a combination of a coat and a cardigan.
Another great way to take a break and recharge for more shopping forays is a visit to the Alberni Inlet. A stop here will renew your appreciation for the amazing natural world we live in, especially if you spot some orcas!
Since 1979, Finishing Touches (4558 Elizabeth St, Port Alberni) has offered aesthetics services, cosmetics, skin and body care products all under one roof. Louise Pearson and her dedicated staff — some of whom have been with her for over three decades — are your go-to experts for all things wellness and self-care. To say they have a selection of gifts for the holidays and beyond is an understatement! From OPI nail polish to Dr Renaud skincare, Glo Skin Beauty, Warm Buddy housecoats and slippers, and Thymes Bath & Body to fashion accessories like Victoria’s own Glee Jewelry, Laughing Sparrow from Calgary, and QUDO ‘screw, stack, swap’ jewellery.
For winter, Louise’s top beauty tip for the season is to take care of your skin: “Drink lots of water for hydration and ramp up your skin care. Use cleanser and toner, protection for daytime and nourishing night cream, and cream around the eyes.” She says it doesn’t take a lot of time but it certainly pays off. Of course if you need any products for this regimen, Finishing Touches has all you need.
With the stress of making your list, checking it twice, and then navigating around shipping deadlines and supply chain issues… it can add on a whole lot of unnecessary worry during what should be a lighthearted and joyous season.
Fortunately, there are places like Port Alberni where the small business community has got your back and where you can shop the very best of Vancouver Island all in one place! In the Alberni Valley, with the majestic natural beauty of the Island on the one hand and local community on the other, you can support local and do the holidays differently.