Chamber celebrates residents who #ThinkLocalFirst

Valerie Rossi
By Valerie Rossi
November 24th, 2022

It’s like Christmas morning came early as the Trail & District Chamber of Commerce excitedly unwraps the #ThinkLocalFirst Shopping Bag Campaign this holiday season.

Twenty stores across the South Kootenay are stocked with branded, reusable fabric bags, up from the 10 that participated during last year’s inaugural campaign. Merchants are ready to celebrate their shoppers by giving out the free bags, designed by VH Sport and adorned with the Chamber’s #ThinkLocalFirst logo as well as that of this year’s sponsor, Pillar Partner Waneta Plaza.

“South Kootenay businesses can market the launch any way they feel is best for them; they choose who gets first dibs on the bags,” explains Executive Director Erika Krest. “And we distributed a personalizable social media marketing tool kit to participating stores to make their job easier.”

For example, Earthy Organics will dole out its shopping bags while participating as a vendor at the Early Bird Christmas Market this weekend at Waneta Plaza.

“In the past we’ve seen some stores have a minimum purchase threshold or a first-come, first-served philosophy — it’s completely up to them,” Krest adds.

Leanne Ellis, owner of Kootenay Made Co., a shop that curates local artisanal designs and products, is using the campaign as an opportunity to thank her customers.

“I’m super grateful for everyone who has come in and chosen to spend their money in my store, supporting not only me specifically but also the almost 100 Kootenay vendors that we carry. I see this as a giveback opportunity,” she says.

Ellis has dreamed of opening a storefront since she was a child, finally fulfilling her entrepreneurial longing about a year and a half ago when conversations with her best friend, Angela Leonard of Studio 3 Handmade Goods, revealed an opportunity to create a company that put locally-made products like Leonard’s multi- medium contemporary jewelry on a pedestal. Her efforts were recognized this spring when she took home the Emerging Entrepreneur Award at the Chamber’s 2021 Business Excellence Awards.

“Having a seven-days-a-week storefront really works for vendors,” she says. “For those who work weekends or can’t make it out to a market but still want to support local artisans, my store basically acts as a permanent market. And it’s great to be in Waneta Plaza; it’s the best business decision I’ve made!”

Waneta Plaza Property Manager Michelle Gardner is pleased to see some new energy enter the space. Along with Kootenay Made Co., hair studio Denim & Roses and Black Kat Creations — your source for crystals, candles and anything a little dark and magical — have also recently set up shop.

“We have a number of charming locally-owned small businesses, and they need community support in order to thrive,” says Gardner. “We’re gearing up for a busy shopping season and this initiative is a great way to encourage people to shop Waneta Plaza, not only at Christmas but year-round.”

Ellis appreciates the structure and support the mall provides and says she “loves the vibes” shared by

neighbouring businesses. She enjoys acting as an ambassador for the artisans who choose to sell through her store, sharing their stories with shoppers to provide context and meaning to their purchases.

Ellis points out that the bag campaign aligns perfectly with her values; her business is dedicated to supporting and celebrating the diverse businesses and people local to the region.

“I’m a Kootenay girl, born and raised,” she adds. “My Kootenay pride is pretty thick, and it’s important for me to support the community I love.”

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