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Looking for Things To Do in the Nicola Valley? 

Shop Local in Merritt, BC – Vision Quest Optical and Gifts

“Come Downtown and Buy Something!” 

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Decorative BC designed drum bag

Jeanine Gustafson, owner of Vision Quest Optical and Gifts, encourages people to shop local in Merritt BC and support our businesses. That’s the message she would like to send out to the people who live in the Nicola Valley.

Vision Quest is an eclectic shop right on the corner of Quilchena and Voght Street, a corner everyone passes when they are downtown Merritt. Jeanine has a prime location on the main block, and fills her windows with a lively display all year round. If you pop in to see what’s there, you’ll find jewelry, gems, glass frames, toys, cards, books and local art.

On the Quest for Vision Services? Glass Frames? 

Jeanine is an optician with 30 years experience and her shop began as a way for her to offer optical services to the people in the community. You can find a room full of diverse frames for children, women, and men in Vision Quest shop, and Jeanine can help you find a frame you like and fulfill your prescription. She offers one more great choice in the community before a person decides to head off for Kamloops or to online services. Definitely worth checking out!

Looking for Local Art? 

Shop Local in Merritt, BC

Bead Jewelry Galore

Over the ten years Jeanine has been providing options for vision care, she has expanded the offerings in her shop. Vision Quest is full of art, crafts, and jewelry created by about 40 local artists. 

All year round there are gifts, mementos, and useful items to choose from: cards by Marilyn Lytton, blankets from Amelia Washington, handmade soap from Les Keys, baskets and beading from Charles McKay. 

Jeanine herself creates feather earrings and other jewelry. There are painted tiles and jewelry by Pauline Ouellet, cards by photographer Heidi Koehler, beading by Ashala Harvie. And beautiful pained rocks by local artist Georgina Beatty! 

1st Nations Art 

Jeanine says the majority of the artists showing their work at Vision Quest are 1st Nations from the Nicola Valley, and some

Shop Local in Merritt, BC

1st Nations Art

from nearby regions like Lillooet. Her contacts also provide her with 1st Nations items designed in BC to satisfy her visitors from other provinces and countries. Look for beautiful designs on drum bags, a red lampshade, beaded earrings, medallions, baskets, cards…

The prices at Vision Quest are reasonable and range from about $5 to…more. I was very taken with a gorgeous across-the-shoulder bright turquoise suede bag, for just over $100. 

The local work in Jeanine’s lively, full shop is worth a leisurely search.

But I will admit that the jewelry, especially the gem jewelry, at Vision Quest often draws me through the welcoming doors on Quilchena Avenue.

Gems and Trinkets Galore!

Shop Local in Merritt, BC

Gems and Jewelry

Jeanine’s windows are full of her jewelry, hanging or displayed in photo frames. And once you are in the shop, the jewelry is displayed in every cabinet, and in every nook and cranny. Amethysts, rose quartz, topaz, garnets, you name it. There are simple pendants to elaborately set jewelry, rings, earrings, bracelets in all shapes and colours.

There is also a diverse assortment of costume jewelry and a variety of pretty bags for storing your gems and trinkets.

What else? 

Jeanine carries local books from local authors when possible, fun toys for kids, guitar pics…

And a good supply of beading supplies: seed beads, gem beads, and others, and lots of supporting items like thread.

Business in Merritt 

I asked Jeanine what support she gets from the community. And her reply, “I am still open.” 

Shopping Local in Merritt, BC

Tiny decorative painted bird houses

In my opinion, with years of experience in owning a retail business myself, ten years is a success story!

Jeanine Gustafson is the owner of Vision Quest, renting her prime location from the local owners of the building. She has been open for ten years and is very familiar with what works downtown, and what doesn’t. She talks about how she is supported by the City of Merritt’s policies and attention. 

What Works? 

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Hand made baby moccasins

Jeanine talks about other businesses and organizations which are supportive. For instance, she mentions how helpful the Open Door was to her. And comments on the support that Work BC has given to people she knows. 

“All sorts of fun people come in!” 

Jeanine enjoys the people who come in. She has regulars who pop in for tea and chats. She serves a steady flow of people coming in for optician services. And she welcomes all the visitors to town who make their way through her doors.

As we know, Merritt attracts people from all over the world. Jeanine often acts as an ambassador and tells people where to go in town, and what is happening locally. She has stories she shares with visitors, things I didn’t know about the history of some of the surrounding buildings and I’ve lived here for a lot longer….

What do you enjoy the most?

I asked Jeanine what she enjoys most about her business. After a moment’s thought, she describes the fun she has setting up

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Feather earrings by Jeanine Gustafson

the Christmas windows! Jeanine possesses the considerable Christmas village collection of the late Marguerite Kempin, a long time resident of the valley. It takes Jeanine a month to set it up, with no days off! And it will take a month to take down, ready for the next display! So it was great to hear that is a favourite part of her shop experiences.

I enjoy the Christmas window! And I know others who do too, some who take their grandchildren downtown to view it all.

Have you seen it? Whoops, it may be too late for this year. But the next display in Vision Quest’s display windows, on the corner of Voght Street and Quilchena Avenue will be there soon. Stroll by! Pop in!

Vision Quest is open Tuesday to Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday 11am-5pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

But Jeanine is open on Mondays in the summer months. She says Monday is a busy day in Merritt in the summer!

And how will she keep going in the slow months? Jeanine’s message to the locals: “Come downtown and buy something!”

Now that’s a positive message that supports all the shops in Merritt!

Thanks, Jeanine! Good visit! 

Shop local in Merritt BC

Blue suede bag

 

Contact Jeanine Gustafson at Vision Quest visionquestoptical@gmail.com 

Vision Quest Optical and Gifts Facebook

More on the arts and culture scene in the Nicola Valley

And if you want to see more local art visit our local Arts Gallery at the heritage Courthouse on Nicola Avenue. 

And visit our Nicola Valley Arts Council site, to see what’s happening in the arts in our valley.

The NVCAC is also on Facebook. 

And check out my Creative Community Facebook page.

Shop local in Merritt, BC

Shopping at Vision Quest

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Things To Do In Merritt, B.C. 

Spring, summer, fall or winter you will find many things to do in Merritt, B.C.

Seek out new stores

New and different “Things to do in Merritt, B.C.” just has to include new and different places to go. There are some new businesses in town and it took me less than 10 minutes to find two of them.

Both “The Bee’s Knees” and “Petals and Plants” are new shops on Quilchena Avenue in the downtown core and several more will be up and running by the time you read this blog. Seek them out and enjoy something different!

The Bee’s Knees

Owner Amanda loves her job! She started out with the idea of selling clothes from home but that idea sure mushroomed! So she  began “The Bee’s Knees” in March 2018 but outgrew that tiny space almost immediately!  Next, Amanda moved to her present location in the 1900 block of Quilchena Avenue in July, taking all her great ideas (and clothes) with her! 

This lady knows how to dress her clients! Amanda will offer you ideas and combinations you probably would never have thought of yourself. She is one creative business  owner and if you are an old doll like me, her advice will help you update your wardrobe, or at least bring it into the 21st century!And, bless her, the woman carries plus sizes too! Don’t be embarrassed. Ask Amanda! Shop here at The Bee’s Knees where you won’t be all alone!

Check out “The Bee’s Knees” for great event clothes, vintage looks and up-to-the-minute designs too!

Amanda will even do your nails to match your outfit! At the Bee’s Knees you will certainly leave happy, even if you just go to look! Check out Bees Knees Boutique on facebook.

Petals & Plants

The next new place I came across when I was hunting for “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” was Petals & Plants. I heard more than one person say “Finally, a flower shop in Merritt!”

Yes, it is a flower shop- and more! Vicki, the owner, started her shop because, as she puts it, “I’m not great at retiring. I missed the people.” She won’t miss them here! The place has been full of customers and visitors every time I’ve stopped by! In addition to flowers, of course, Vicky carries lots of constantly changing items that make great gifts, so the place is likely to be full of people as well as petals & plants no matter when you go. So check it out!

Enjoy a mini spa day

For a list of “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” why not include a mini spa day! Start by going to the Aquatic Centre for a workout, followed by a swim, sauna and whirlpool. Then, take a hot shower, scrub with an exfoliant, pat down with a soft towel and use plenty of body cream. There. Now you are all soft and energized! Feels good, doesn’t it?

Afterwards? Keep your prearranged appointment at one of Merritt’s several hair salons for a wash, trim and blow dry. Then have a complete mani-pedi since many salons do both. And while you are there, try some new makeup too!

Now, you feel as fantastic as you look, so treat yourself to a nice lunch! Also, why not enjoy the rest of the day shopping?

 Return home happy, relaxed and revitalized, a new you!

Things to do in merritt, B.C.

Seniors aquafit

Take a Walk

Among the best and easiest “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” is to take a walk! Enjoy some of our gorgeous scenery and beautiful parks! Check out the possibilities in my blogs Walking Around Merritt” and “Parks in Merritt”and have some fun in any season. Incidentally, if you have kids with you, winter is a great time to walk in the park! Make snow angels, snow forts, snow people or snow pets! In addition to this, you can pack a snow picnic and add thermoses of hot soup and hot cocoa! Yum! You will have just as much fun as the kids!

Things to do in Merritt, B.C. -Parks

Ready for a picnic after a walk in one of Merritt’s parks

Check Out the Library

These days the library goes way beyond a simple place to read and borrow books. There are many “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” right in our library!  Yes, we all know about borrowing cd’s, dvd’s, and audio books. In addition to these standbys, there are also many children’s reading programs, crafting classes, story times, adult literacy programs and art classes. Besides all this, there are computer classes (and computers to use), knitting, crocheting, gardening, painting, food preserving and various discussion groups that meet at the library. Surprised?

Add to this list some very interesting lectures and guest authors who do readings. Or, if you want a quiet, peaceful day, pick out a book, sit on the comfy sofa by the fireplace and just read!

With all this available, I’m sure you will find many “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” that will entertain you at any time of the year!

Have a Pub Lunch

Well, we all like to eat, don’t we? So of course I include food in my “things to do in Merritt, B.C.”  blog. Not the regular restaurants this time, though. The pubs!

A few years ago a friend dragged me, kicking and screaming I’ll admit, to a local pub for lunch. What a revelation! I actually had fun and a good lunch- at a reasonable price! Also, the lunch crowd was lively and fun. I could hardly believe it! I enjoyed myself!

Most pubs in Merritt have daily lunch and dinner specials. Try one! You will be surprised at how good pub food can be! And no, you don’t have to order alcohol with your meal if you would rather have coffee! However, a burger and a beer can go down nicely when you are in the mood.

Bonus- no one will give you a “look” if you laugh a little loudly with your friends!  

 Look at the seniors programs

If you are a senior, or know one, check out the goings-on at the Seniors Centre. This group certainly adds a lot to the “things to do in Merritt, B.C.” list. Try some of the following programs:

  • Vinyasa Yoga @ the Civic Centre
  • Seniors Free Swim @ the Aquatic Centre
  • Stretch & Stability @ the Aquatic Centre
  • Noon Hour Aqua Fit @ the Aquatic Centre
  • Stand Tall, Don’t Fall @ the Seniors Centre
  • Cribbage
  • Bingo 
    Things to do in Merritt, B.C.

    swinging seniors

                                                                           
  • Duplicate Bridge
  • Carpet Bowling .                                                           
  • Court Whist
  • Physically Challenged Floor Curling                                 
  • Floor Curling
  • Floor & Table Shuffleboard
  • Drop-in Lunch
  • Drop-in Activities, Fridays
  • Rummoli & Games
  • Drop-in Activities, Saturdays
  • General Meeting
  • Potluck

Wow! And some people think seniors aren’t active!  Compared to what? Test out some things from this list and see if you can keep up!

Go bowling

How long has it been since you got a group of friends together and went bowling? Have most of us bowled regularly (we’re talking 5 pins here) since we were kids? Or maybe not bowled regularly since we were kids! If you’re looking for “things to do in Merritt, B.C.”, bowling is a fun one with the bonus of being genuine exercise! Check out Merritt Bowling Centre.  Enjoy noise, laughter, exercise and yes, food! Bring back some of the good times of yesteryear. Repeat often.

What Else Can You Come Up With?

 While there must be dozens more ideas that I haven’t even touched on, these are a few to get you started. What new ideas can you and your friends come up with?

Your senior blogger signing off for now.

Diane 

 

A Nicola Valley Perspective on Youth Entrepreneurship

When we are young, we feel we can conquer the world. 

Not that long ago I was part of this vigorous demographic. Time flies eh! When we are young, we feel we can conquer the world but it’s not until we struggle accomplishing our own goals that we realize growing up may not be as easy as we thought. Let’s invest in our Youth (Youth Entrepreneurship). Give our Youth the opportunity to remember us because of the positive impact we had in their lives.

Entrepreneurship

From left to right: Carlos Olguin, Nathan Olguin, Alexander Olguin and Daniel Olguin

One morning I asked my 11 year old son what entrepreneurship meant to him?

We have different opinions for everything. Many times it depends where you are coming from and how life has treated you.  Entrepreneurship is no different; it might mean something different for each one of us. As an example, one morning I asked my 11 year old son what entrepreneurship meant to him? His answer was, “I know what the word means, but I keep forgetting. Entrepreneurship I think means like I heard it in the TV show Shark Tank. It was like learning to start a business and making your business. Kind of what you do at Community Futures helping people grow businesses”. 

If you had $50.00 dollars to start a business what kind of business would you start?

I was not expecting this answer so I had to ask a second question to my son. So Nathan, if you had $50.00 dollars to start a business, what kind of business would you start? This was his answer. “With $50.00 dollars I could start a lemonade stand and I could start selling lemonade. I would probably locate my lemonade stand in a populated area on a really hot day when people are rushing with their kids willing to pay 25 or 50 cents for an ice cold lemonade”. If we think a little bit about his answer, he not only thought about his target market, he also thought about the ideal location with the right foot traffic under the right weather condition to succeed in his business. Way to go Nathan!

What kind of programs and services are we offering to our Youth in our Community?

What are we doing to provide our Youth with the tools and resources they need to develop their entrepreneurial skills?

According to tradingeconomics.com “Youth Unemployment Rate in Canada remained unchanged at 11.10 percent in May from 11.10 percent in April of 2018. Youth Unemployment Rate in Canada averaged 14.04 percent from 1976 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 20.70 percent in October of 1982 and a record low of 10.30 percent in September of 2017”.

The option to invest in our Youth is no longer a choice but an essential need.

Given the high rates of Youth Unemployment in Canada, the option to invest in our Youth is no longer a choice but an essential need.  They are our future business owners that will represent the back bone of our local economy.

As mentioned by Will George, manager of Economic Development and Tourism for the City of Merritt “As a community we need to be open and eager to help assist Youth discover what entrepreneurship is all about. Starting a business is not just for adults but for anyone who has passion of starting their own business. Commencing at a young age helps Youth think about other opportunities besides just working at their typical jobs. Starting a business is not for everyone, but everyone should have an opportunity and resources available to them to make up their own mind on the matter.”

Entrepreneurship

Mark Nendick (PFN Coaching), Sarah Forsberg (Capital Cake Company), Travis Fehr (Breathe Bikes), Ashley Dearden (Sinfully Sugar’d), Preston Customs (Darren Preston).

Job creation is the opportunity to create local jobs for local people.

Part of my job at Community Futures is to help entrepreneurs start their own small businesses. Throughout the last eight years, I have helped numerous people start their own business. It is gratifying to see my clients succeed while running their own businesses, but I have also seen them struggling or breaking even especially for the first few months in business. 

Job creation is an important component within our community. It’s the opportunity to create local jobs for local people. There are some awesome programs that help create summer student positions such as the Summer Student Program. This program provides wage subsidies to employers to create employment for secondary and post-secondary students. I am all in favor of job creation, but I think we also need to incubate our local entrepreneurial talent.

Entrepreneurship

Merritt Youth Entrepreneurship Program 2018. From left to right: Manuel Olguin, Bryan Chavez, Sajjin Lali, Amrit Samra, Kara Wright, Julia Smith & Jacob Schultz.

Five young minds embracing lawn care, photography, web designing, and retail.

With this in mind, Community Futures Nicola Valley in partnership with the City of Merritt and the School District 58 this year launched the Merritt Youth Entrepreneurship Program.

This Youth Entrepreneurship initiative was offered to all Nicola Valley students in grades 8-12 who were looking for some extra cash this summer. This program not only provides up to $200.00 start-up funding but also provides business resources to support our students in their entrepreneurial path. 

 These five young minds will have the opportunity to run their summer business for the months of July and August. Four different industry sectors will be represented by these five entrepreneurs: lawn care, photography, web designing, and retail. These students will also have the opportunity to showcase their businesses at the next Provincial Community Futures Conference on September 13-15, 2018 here in Merritt, B.C.

Entrepreneurship

Photo courtesy of Junior Achievement

Junior Achievement has several programs such as Dream Big.

Junior Achievement has been working actively in our Community for the past years. They have several programs that include: A Business of Our Own, More Than Money, Dollars with Sense, Be Entrepreneurial, and Dream Big amongst other programs.

In 2016 I started working closely with Kara Wright the Program Coordinator for Junior Achievement office in Kamloops. We successfully delivered the “Be Entrepreneurial Program” to grade 9-12 students at Merritt Secondary School. While working on the Merritt Youth Entrepreneurship Program, Kara and I successfully delivered the business model canvas. This business model canvas was delivered to five successful students enrolled in the program. For those of you who may not know, a “business model canvas” is a business model all on one page. 

4-H Club in Canada.

A few years back, I remember reading about the 4-H Club in Canada. It’s great to know that this club is finally back in Merritt. In the near future, I will be blogging about the 4-H Club in the Nicola Valley. Stay tuned!

The lack of initiatives to support the Youth in my home-town discouraged me from starting my own business.

For those who do not know me, I grew up in a small town close to Mexico City. Thinking back in time, I wish I had such programs as all those mentioned in this blog. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, but lack of initiatives to support Youth in my home-town discouraged me from starting my own business. I am glad my children are raised in Canada where I can let them explore their entrepreneurial skills by shoveling snow or cutting the grass in my neighborhood without being concerned about their own safety.

We just might figure out a way to make the world a better place.

Entrepreneurship may be kids selling candies or home-made popcorn to their classmates at school, or having a lemonade stand on a sunny day. It’s Youth with the courage, creativity and drive to face the potential setbacks along the way of their entrepreneurial path. 

By supporting and recognizing what our local Youth Entrepreneurs are bringing to the table, we just might figure out a way to make the world a better place.

Supporting our Youth! What a great legacy to leave behind us. 

MOR

My Merritt Experience

“…I AM a “Merrittonian” now. When I leave to go back to the Coast I can’t wait to come home…”

Writing a blog about my “Merritt Experience” with business …….something I had never really thought about until Etelka Gillespie approached me a few months ago. That was when I was all sparkly and new to my job as the Executive Director for the Merritt & District Chamber of Commerce. What would I write about? Would people really want the perspective of a “Coastie” on Merritt?

For those of you who don’t know what a “Coastie” is, it is an endearing term used by “Merrittonians” to describe those of us born and raised on the BC West Coast that migrate to live in Merritt later in life. Ok, I have to admit, I don’t really look like I am from here. Still sporting a “Coastie” hair do, short and platinum, and even after almost 5 years (this July actually). I still get asked “you’re not from here are you”. It is pretty obvious! LOL. People know me by my hair, or my kid, and not necessarily by me personally. That’s all a part of my Merritt Experience.

I wanted to be close to family…

I am looking forward to telling you about my experiences with the businesses of Merritt. But for me, that really isn’t what brought me to Merritt. Not a job, or anything related to business. I moved here because my Mom, Dad, and Aunt live here (and my sister and her family now). But honestly, I moved because husband was dying of cancer after a long 7 year battle, and I needed support.

My family now – Photo credit Julie Pollard ~ Merritt Pro Photo

I wanted to be close to family as I started my journey as a single Mom, living on my own for the first time in my life. Merritt was a whole lot more affordable than living in Sardis BC. Who would have thought I would be a widow at 36 after 18 years with my husband? Nevertheless 15 days before Christmas, here I was. New to Merritt, just 5 months of living here, no friends yet really, and working from home for a company at the Coast.

 

 

Adjusting to Merritt surprisingly wasn’t as hard as I thought!

 People recognized me as Maureen’s daughter (there may be a slight resemblance between me and my Mom) or just a “new” person. They accepted us, no questions asked. My daughter’s schoolmates, teachers, and parents supported us when her Dad passed away, even though they didn’t know us. Christmas gifts and casseroles, food baskets, cards and flowers were dropped off at the front door by people we didn’t even know. No explanations, just a Merry Christmas before we could even ask who they were. My late husband had touched people while volunteering with the Community Policing Office. Even in the short time he had been here, I couldn’t believe just how much.

Slowly I found myself venturing out more and more without having my husband to care for. I became a regular at some businesses. People wanted to know my name, where I was from. They remembered me and my daughter the next time we came in. It was so different from being at the coast, where there were simply too many people to remember just one.

The servers at the Home Restaurant knew my daughter loved the “Little Logger Breakfast” on the children’s menu and a hot chocolate, and they knew I loved the beef dip which I ate religiously unless it was breakfast time. As I became a regular to more and more businesses, I was greeted more often than not with familiar smiles, people who said “hey, we haven’t seen you in a while”. Even Jason at the mobile fruit stand that parks in the parking lot at Century 21 every summer asked how my husband was the following summer when I came back alone with my daughter (who he remembered by name). My “Merritt Experience” list was growing faster than I realized, all because of the people. 

My Merritt Experience – I was a person, not just a customer!

Living in Merritt was becoming more and more about the experiences we were having. It was about being able to buy something from Creative Company that was different than the norm and showing off the great thing I found in Merritt, it was still being able to buy myself a nice designer top or jeans at Spaner and Webb or Work N Play.

And yet it was also about having the option to shop at a franchise store like WalMart, Canadian Tire or Extra Foods, but with one big difference. There were no long line ups and crowded aisles, even at those franchises, they knew us. We weren’t just another customer. It was different here, special, still large enough to have the option of shopping for what we needed but small enough that there was always a level of personal experience wherever we went. That is what started my love of living here, those people that chose to own or work for a business here.

It’s about the people who make the town what it is.

Eventually it got to the point where now, we can’t go somewhere without seeing someone we know, in fact it would be a rare exception to have that happen. But that is what Merritt is. It’s the place where you find friendly businesses, you experience them, you don’t just shop in them. It’s about the people who make the town what it is. They are the ones who welcome tourists with the open front doors in the summer time, and a place to warm up in the win

Me, my daughter, and my “Shiny New Husband” – Photo Credit Julie Pollard ~ Merritt Pro Photo

ter. The people love this town so much and want to see it thrive. They love to show off what Merritt is all about when visitors arrive and are directed to all the great places they can experience when they are here. (I could go on and on but I guess I should leave that part for another blog.)

I guess what I am trying to say is I AM a “Merrittonian” now.

When I leave to go back to the Coast I can’t wait to come home, and in fact I even have a shiny new husband who has come to join me here and opened a new business! He too fell in love with Merritt, the people, the experience, the lifestyle…..but that is another blog for another day.

I hope you will follow my blog and follow my EXPERIENCES with the businesses here, through what was a tourists eyes. Even now, in a lot of ways, it is still through the eyes of someone who “isn’t from here” originally but absolutely LOVES to live here now!

You will begin to understand why you will want to come here and see what the “Merritt Experience” is all about.