The number of treasures in Sea Thrift Artisan Boutique defies the small space they occupy.
The recently opened store, located in a small room at the back of The Bookcase second-hand book store in Qualicum Beach, is the creation of Karalena Walsh and Lisa Smith-Lanty.
It’s also the answer to a question Walsh’s mom, Maize, (who, along with Al Walsh, owns the book store) has been asking for years: what should be done with that small room in the back?
It’s a refrain Walsh said she had become quite familiar with.
“She’s been telling me (to do something with that room) for years,” she said. “I just couldn’t think of anything.”
That’s until Smith-Lanty, a friend and cousin of Walsh’s, got things moving.
“We were talking about getting into art and getting more creative, and I was like, ‘Let’s just do it — find a space,’” Smith-Lanty said.
“I wasn’t joking — there was a part of me that was serious. Then, the next day, she’s like, ‘I have a space,’ and I was like, ‘Woah, what’s happening here?’”
After removing hundreds of books, “floor to ceiling,” said Smith-Lanty, the pair started with a focus on eco-friendly hygiene and cleaning products made by Smith-Lanty and Walsh.
“It’s called Sea Thrift Soap Works,” said Walsh, and includes various kinds of soap, scrubs and castile soap. “People are like, ‘Oh, that was what my grandma had… very effective, but old-fashioned cleaning… and it’s totally, 100 per cent green.”
Further to their eco-friendly interests, the store takes back empty bottles of its cleaning products to re-use or recycle, giving the customer 15 per cent off their next purchase.
But the store goes far beyond cleaning products.
Opened in June, the boutique now includes products and artwork by local artisans, including prints, up-cycled accessories, crystals, essential oils, vintage items, jewelry, books by Island authors and much more.
It’s the sort of place that customers can spend half-hour or longer discovering what the small room holds, and still come back later and discover more, which has happened a few times, they said.
“It you talk to me, I still think we have room for more,” said Walsh with a laugh.
But they are well aware that helping people to find the store is their challenge.
“We’re in a funky location and we realize that,” said Walsh.
Thus far, business has been good, they said, but have a few things planned to get their name out there.
The first is an open house on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. — an effort to introduce more customers to the store.
Second is to organize a Christmas market for Nov. 18 at the Rotary Hall in Qualicum Beach.
“We’re still looking for artists,” said Walsh, adding that this will be their first annual market.
Those interested in getting a table can contact Walsh at 250-752-2522 or leave a message at 250-752-2408.
They’ll also include a food bank donation box at the market, they said.
It’s one of the small things they work to do with their new business to support the community, said the Island-grown ladies.
Neither of them have experience in this sort of business, they said, adding they feel like they’ve stuck their neck out in going ahead with it. But they’ve had a lot of support in return, and hope to share their small space to provide some support for Island artists.
“I had a young girl bring (a book) in to me… she was like, ‘I’ve written this book and I’m trying to promote it,’… she’s probably around 21, 22, and she wants to have a book signing, and I was like, ‘You go!’” Walsh said, pointing to one of the books in the boutique.
“That’s what you want to support,” added Smith-Lanty.
With more growing yet to do at the shop, Walsh and Smith-Lanty said they hope to turn their boutique into a not-so-hidden treasure, with an array of local creations with something new to see every time you visit.
Sea Thrift Artisan Boutique is located at the back of The Bookcase store at 676 Memorial Ave.
For more information, go to their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SeaThriftArtisanBoutique/.