Last minute shoppers can find everything in the Perron District
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 06:00 am
If you have waited this long to finish (or even start) your holiday shopping, then good luck to you. Time is now even more precious than ever. It’s probably a good strategy to be smart about it so you run less of a risk of getting stuck in a traffic jam for an hour.
That means that shopping close to home may be your best bet. The good news is that there are many stores in St. Albert that can offer you a range of unique local products. The better news is that you can steer clear of the traffic snarls at the big boxes by going downtown. Downtown St. Albert, that is.
“There’s no better place than the downtown Perron District,” said Lynda Moffat, president and CEO of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce.
“You’re going to find things that are unusual and unique and special treasures. It’s not like going into a larger store where you might find a lot of the same thing. There are so many shops down there that your ability to choose some great gifts is just really, really good.”
She commended the commercial district – literally a three-block radius – for its diverse and trendy stores from Trendy Homes to Modern Eyes Gallery to Crimson Quill.
And more. Truth be told, you could get much of your shopping done without even leaving St. Albert Place. Our city hall was designed to be the people’s place, after all.
Here’s a guide to doing all of your shopping in St. Albert without going to a mall and without even leaving one building. St. Albert Place has a lot of culture to it but look a little closer and there’s a lot of commerce going on too.
Musée Héritage Museum
The city’s cultural repository doesn’t just have a permanent exhibit on St. Albert’s history and a current exhibit featuring youthful photography from Akinsdale to Woodlands.
It has a gift shop filled with items you won’t find anywhere else. The shelves are full of numerous items, many of them handmade locally. There are children’s toys, lunchboxes and some gorgeous marble dishes. There are numerous culturally-relevant books, both fiction and non-fiction, including the popular Understanding Ursula trilogy by St. Albert author Corinne Jeffery.
If you are ready to plan out the next year in your future (but still enjoy the past) then the Archives Society of Alberta has calendars with historical photos for $5. The gift shop display also showcases artistic greeting cards. There’s the series of pewter Christmas ornaments that were produced by Arts and Heritage St. Albert. These oval medallions pay tribute to some local historic sites like the Little White School and the grain elevators.
Speaking of grain elevators, check out the beeswax grain elevator candles and the wooden goods sitting on the same shelf next to them. These wood pieces (from Against the Grain out of Innisfree) are made out of leg wood, meaning old pieces of the chutes of former grain elevators from across the province, explained Edna Baker, the museum’s visitor services co-ordinator.
Peter Kirk, the woodworker behind Against the Grain, takes the genuine grain-worn elevator wood and has made boxes, fridge magnets, and a key-holder rack that uses horseshoe nails for the hooks. There’s also a coffee grinder for $125.
If you need to find a gift for the wine lover in your life then take note of the simple planks with the hole drilled out of it. Put the bottle’s neck into the hole and the wood will balance the bottle on an unusual angle, seemingly defying gravity.
“They’re a wonderful conversation piece,” Baker said.
You can also pick up some original paintings and other stitched art pieces by St. Albert’s Alan Nuttall and Linda McBain Cuyler of Edmonton. Cuyler explained that the museum is a perfect venue for her to sell her creations.
“My work combines painting with stitching so it is an updated version of a traditional woman's craft which fits well in a location featuring history. It shows that stitching is not just a thing of the past,” she said, later adding, “I love having my work for sale in such a lovely and art-vibrant city centre where the residents are strong arts supporters.”
The gift shop has a modest selection of personal care products in the form of handmade soaps from local company Mount Sapo. These $6 bars come in various aromatic varieties, including honeysuckle patchouli, lemon fig and black raspberry vanilla.
Soap maker Darlene Fisher said her work has a historical nature to it.
“My grandmother made her own soap and it was a skill I wanted to continue on.”
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Call 780-459-1528 or visit www.museeheritage.ca for more information.
Down the hallway toward the studios where many of this city’s artists are always busy, the WARES store has a selection of local arts and crafts. WARES stands for Works of Art Representative of Every Studio. It’s operated by the St. Albert Place Visual Arts Council and only contains works made by anyone from any of the member guilds (including paper arts, floral arts, painting, pottery, and quilters), the Art Gallery of St. Albert children’s workshop program, or the City of St. Albert cultural services visual arts branch.
There are notebooks and cards, jewelry, functional and decorative pottery pieces and handmade wooden pens, bowls and seam rippers. There are also fabric works like baby blankets and paintings.
The store is open Thursday through Saturday every week from noon to 3:30 p.m. Call 780-459-1690 or visit www.stalbert.ca/st-albert-place-visual-arts-council-and-guilds for more information.
St. Albert Public Library
Many visitors to St. Albert Place have seen the display case of used books, CDs and videos that has a permanent fixture right outside the library’s front doors. There’s even more for sale inside that maybe you didn’t realize.
The library offers unique clothing and fabric items from a company called Out of Print. These T-shirts, baby clothes and tote bags feature original cover art of some famous books. They’re on sale as a way of helping the Friends of the St. Albert Public Library to raise money.
“They’re the perfect gifts for book lovers! They can wear their favourite book,” stated Brenda Batchelor, the vice president of the organization.
If you want to check out a broader selection of what the literary-minded company has to offer, and still want to help out the library, then you can go to its website at www.outofprintclothing.com to do your shopping. It will donate 50 per cent of the proceeds of all online orders to the Friends, but only until this Thursday. Consumers must use the referral code “ALBERT” at the checkout.
The ever-popular Reel Mondays film series is revving up for its new season, starting in January. Tickets went on sale just last week and are being snapped up, despite the lineup of festival films not confirmed yet.
“There’s something for book lovers. There’s something for movie lovers, for people who need tickets for a date night out with their spouse.”
The 10th annual film series includes a different film, one showing only, on the last Monday of every month from January to May.
If that doesn’t suit you then Batchelor suggested sponsoring a book in someone’s name. The sponsorship earns the buyer a bookplate at the front of the book.
“You can have a lot of fun with that,” she said.
The library is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Call 780-459-1530 or visit www.sapl.ca for more information.
The Indoor Christmas Farmers’ Market also has its last run this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are numerous vendors who will have booths in the lobby of St. Albert Place.
And there’s lots of shopping opportunities within a three-block radius of city hall.
“There’s a furniture store downtown, plenty of clothing, beautiful ladies wear … if you’re into art and beautiful handmade things like that. It’s just a wealth of special places to go and find a special gift,” continued Moffat, touting the shopping options in the Perron District.
There are more than 200 businesses in St. Albert’s downtown, covering everything from retail stores, spas, restaurants and entertainment. You can catch a play or a concert at the Arden Theatre or a movie at Grandin Theatres.
Moffat said the downtown is also a pretty place to be.
“The whole time that you’re down there, you’re in this exceptionally beautiful environment and atmosphere. It’s second to none of any place I’ve ever been. To be able to enjoy what we have here at home is, I think, a really great treat.”