Downtown Ladysmith provides many opportunities to shop local this holiday season. (Photo by Tyler Hay)

Downtown Ladysmith provides many opportunities to shop local this holiday season. (Photo by Tyler Hay)

Ladysmith provides plenty of opportunities to shop local for the holidays

Kathleen Bortolin,

I pulled my sister-in-law’s name in the annual extended family gift exchange this year. Usually, we play a little game where I ask her what she wants, she tells me, and I order it off Amazon or head to the mall. Wanting to infuse a little more joy into the experience, coupled with not wanting to drive to Woodgrove in an atmospheric river, or a pandemic, or a gas shortage, I decided this year to shop local. Armed with a “sustainable and local” theme, I hit First Avenue with my wallet and my resolve.

Poking around in White Space Living, I learn that the entire store is vegan. The entire store! And most everything is local (ish). Carla Redford, manager, explains that the cards are all made by local Ladysmithsonians; the many lovely signs by Timber and Gray out of Nanaimo; and much of the furniture upcycled from items found locally. At the till, I enter the Town of Ladysmith draw, but Carla explains that, like many local vendors, they are having additional draws for baskets and goodies from shop, their especially open to shoppers during extended Christmas hours: Friday nights until 8 p.m.

Across the street at Left Coast Fashions, I meet local shopper Michelle Klopper. She is Christmas shopping for her German high school exchange student who she hosted last year. “The international students love this store because there are so many local goods and many cool items with Vancouver Island themes.” She decides on a beautiful lightweight Vancouver Island plaque and can’t resist an even more gorgeous bag for herself. I comment on how lovely it is that she’s still connected to her student from last year and buying her presents.

Cat Slade works part-time at Left Coast Fashions, but is also a local artisan whose handmade custom cards and ornaments appear in the store. Cat explains that shopping local is key to our current times, as many big stores will be out of stock. “Our owner is able to get products and stock because they are locally sourced. They’re not being shipped from elsewhere.” A huge benefit at this time with supply chain issues hindering other businesses.

I carry on and make purchases in the Worldly Gourmet, Salamander Books and my new favourite, the Ladysmith Auxiliary Thrift Store. I also head into the Health Food Store and spring for some organic nettle tea. They have me sign my receipt to enter one of 12 draws for baskets. While signing, they explain that in addition to Elf on the Shelf during Old Time Christmas, there will also be a story walk, illustrated by local high school students and hanging across different stores downtown to engage youngsters as they tag along for the shopping experience.

I visit The Top Drawer Consignment Store and eye up new and consigned clothes, including various scarves that I will return and buy for myself later. At Pharmasave I grab some magazines and lottery tickets and a puzzle book for my son’s fabulous and puzzle-crazed teacher, Mr. Wells. Leah has a dog, so For Pet’s Sake yields even more ideas. And then I contemplate buying her some short ribs and deli ham from Boumas but realize that they might not make it to Christmas (I’d be too tempted to eat them).

I’m done and dusted less than two hours from setting off. I’ve also heard some great stories from the local shopkeepers, which really is the best part of the outing. I grab myself one of the best buns in Ladysmith to celebrate and pat myself on the back that Leah’s getting a great haul. For anyone else wanting to save on gas and avoid the recent white-knuckle highway driving experience, may I suggest putting on your comfy shoes, grabbing a coffee at In the Bean Time and hitting the streets of Ladysmith for some great local goods and if you’re lucky, a story or two.