Gil, left, and Sandy Herle of Parksville accept the Retail Business of the Year Award for Close to You Ladies Fashion and Lingerie at the annual Business Examiner Awards in Victoria Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. — Matt Nagra photo

Parksville shop snares top Island business award

Close to You fashion store named Retail Business of the Year

Sandy Herle and her husband Gil collected the Retail Business of the Year trophy, awarded to Parksville’s Close to You ladies’ fashions during the annual Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards in Victoria Thursday evening, Jan. 25.

Which, in retrospect, beat the alternative of having the glass statue sent up-Island by courier.

“We’re busy, and I wasn’t going to go,” Sandy Herle said of the awards gala, held at Victoria’s Delta Ocean Pointe Resort. “My daughter told me, ‘Mom, if your name is called and you’re not there, you’re gonna feel like an idiot.’”

Instead, Herle admits, she felt like the belle of the ball at the 18th annual awards, hosted by the Business Examiner.

“It was exciting,” she said after Close to You topped a field of seven finalists in the Retail Business of the Year category. “I truly was not expecting to win. And the accolades we’ve been getting since then, on Facebook, on Instagram, it’s been overwhelming.”

Close to You, which won the Parksville & District Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award in 2017, was one of a number of Parksville Qualicum Beach-area businesses selected as finalists for the annual Island-wide awards.

Qualicum Beach Inn, M&N Mattress, Bayview Custom Motorcycles, Bread & Honey Food Company, Nurture Collective, Alcove Homegrown Living, Arbutus Dental Clinic, Salt and Harrow and Mid-Island Computer Enterprises (MICE) were also named as finalists for awards in one of 16 categories.

“I think (Parksville Qualicum Beach) was well-represented, which means these businesses are successful, and up-and-coming,” said Herle, who opened Close to You in 1991 and who believes it was one of the longer-tenured businesses to appear as a finalist Thursday night. “Because our region was represented so well, it shows this area is economically viable, or those kinds of businesses wouldn’t be around.”

While unsure of the judging criteria, Herle said she had the sense that businesses with a social conciousness, and that give back to their respective communities, seemed to be prominent among the list of finalists.

“When people are looking for jobs, I think they’re looking for companies that have that social involvement,” said Herle, who employs a staff of 12 people. “I certainly see that when I do my interviews.”

The Business of the Year Award went to Victoria-based Dodd’s Furniture. Balance Home Cleaning, also of Victoria, was named Small Business of the Year. Black Press was the platinum sponsor for this year’s gala.

Herle said she does not know who nominated Close to You for this year’s Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards, or how the nomination process works.

“I got one email saying we had been nominated, then later I got another email saying we were a finalist,” she said. “They wanted me to fill out some forms and send them back in, and I was almost not going to apply because we’ve been so busy.

“But it’s quite an accolade for my staff. I’m thrilled to have gone.”

Close to You is open seven days a week in Parksville’s Corfield Plaza, at 174 Corfield St. For more info, call 250-248-3781 or visit

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