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'Tis the Season to find a hidden gem

Smaller artisan shops are the place to find unique gifts as Christmas closes in

ATHABASCA — Nothing against the big box stores, but when you’re looking for a unique gift for Christmas, sometimes it’s better to stick to the smaller, local stores. 

In Athabasca, there are several collective stores with artisans who create their own products but provide space and a platform for other artists to sell their items as well, from A Little Bit of Everything to Ella and Birch, you can find one-of-a-kind items or services. 

“I have 74 artists right now in the shop,” said Bear in Mind Vintage owner Lori Lockyer. “And then with the furniture refurbishing and refinishing and custom quilting and (now) I got into repairing vintage quilts.” 

Lockyer’s store is at 4804 - 49th Street. located in a house built in 1912, and has been in business there since 2017. 

“My premise when I opened up was to have a lot of small business in my store, lots of small artisans, so that they would have a venue as well,” she said. “That worked out nicely … when I first started, I think I had 22 or something.” 

It was by chance she got started on restoring vintage quilts. 

“The ones I’m working on are either grandparents or great grandparents quilts they want to keep intact so I'm repairing them,” she said. “A lot of quilters won't touch them because they're hard to deal with. So, I ended up doing about six of them and the word got around that I do them and now I have six more.” 

One has already taken over 17 hours and it’s not finished. 

“The one I’m working on right now is fortrel, it’s material from the beginning of polyester and after time it comes away from the stitching,” she said. 

And if you have an old doll packed carefully away in the top of a closet unsure what to do with it, talk to Debbie Knahs at Above and Beyond found at 5314C - 41st Ave. 

“Deb (Weber) came to me one day and said let’s go for a drive,” Knahs said with a laugh. “So, she took me to a building and said, ‘What do you think?’ I didn’t know what she was talking about … and to make a long story short she said, ‘I want to start a store here, would you be interested in being a partner?’” 

The goal is to highlight artwork from area artists, from paintings to carvings, things which are unique and creative shoppers likely won’t find anywhere else. 

“There are a ton of talented people in Athabasca and people like us who only do little bits,” she said. “Our goal is to get these artists so they have someplace where they can sell even if it's only one piece every six months because it's for people who don't do quantity, they do quality.” 

Weber makes original wax paintings, Knahs has started making large dioramas with antique dolls, they both make other items and offer classes like a recent one to decorate a mock window and flower box for Christmas, each made by Knahs. 

“It took us two days to do the fence ones,” she said. “The window ones I did myself and they were a little longer of course because I did them myself.” 

The duo just opened the store a few months ago so they are just finding their footing and audience. 

“We got signs up now; we got a sign above our door and sign at the gate and the sign at the corner of the lot so hopefully it's easier for people to find,” Knahs said. 

The store is west of Kal Tire in the industrial park. 

“We've got some good artisans and Deb does the wax paintings which is absolutely unheard of,” she said. “I don't know anybody who does these wax paintings and Deb’s wax paintings are unbelievably beautiful.” 

Bear in Mind Vintage will be open Dec. 2 and 3 for Moonlight Madness with hourly specials on the Friday and open until 8:30 p.m. Saturday will be regular hours 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Above and Beyond will be open Dec. 2 and 3 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

It's going to be a busy weekend, as businesses around town open up, to share their wares and spread some Christmas cheer. It's also the third instalment of the Athabasca District Chamber of Commerce 'Tis the Season promotion, which has included a variety of activities for folks heading downtown and around town to get their Christmas shopping started.

A fireworks show, which was originally nixed by the Chamber, will go on, as is the tradition, after local businesses donated $5,000 to make the show happen. That will take place Friday, Dec. 2, starting at 8 p.m. at Riverfront Park. The next day at 4 p.m., the annual Santa Parade will take place on its usual route. There will also be fire pits and hot chocolate that day provided by the Interac Rotary Club from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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