Anyone looking for unique Christmas gifts for everyone on their list (or maybe a little something special for themselves) can visit the gift shop at Historic Hat Creek, which is open on weekends between now and Christmas for small shopping groups.
The site did not open this past season due to challenges surrounding COVID-19, but offered individual shopping experiences for people who booked a time to go and browse the shop at their leisure. Don Pearse, CEO of Historic Hat Creek, says that the people who took advantage of that opportunity were very impressed by the variety and selection of items available.
“In February two representatives from HHC went to CanGift Expo in Toronto, which is the biggest gift show in Canada,” he explains. “There are gift vendors from all over the world, and you can wander the display, which is huge. We purchased a lot of inventory for this year.”
They also connected with the Sto:lo Nation in the Mission/Maple Ridge area, specifically to a female Indigenous-owned business, for items. “We definitely wanted authentic B.C. Indigenous products. We have dreamcatchers, bracelets, other jewellery, all made in Mission.”
This is the first time that Christmas shopping has been available in the new gift shop, which opened in 2017 and offers more space than the previous shop. There are more bathrooms (which are open to customers), and an expanded inventory with larger selection and different departments.
Pearse says that they have items in every price range, starting at $2.95 and going up to artwork in the $400–500 range. However, he adds that most gifts are in the $20–50 range, and include hats, jackets, T-shirts, socks, and more for men, women, and children.
“We have everything from knickknacks for stockings to beautiful gifts. We have Canadiana, and kids’ clothing, from onesies for babies up to T-shirts in size 6X, as well as a kids’ toy corner and educational toys.”
The store is open on the weekends of Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 (Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), with free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate being served. No appointment is necessary, but there is a limit of five shoppers in the store at one time. “We’re following all COVID-19 requirements, so we’re asking people to keep to their bubble or family. Masks are required, and everything is wiped down and COVID-compliant within the store.
“We still have utility payments, and we have this wonderful resource sitting here,” Pearse continues. “We’re hoping to get people to shop local and support it and help us pay the bills. We also have memberships available for 2021, which make great gifts.”
Even though the site was closed this season, essential repair and maintenance work was done, including deck replacement, grounds-keeping, irrigation, essential updating to some of the buildings, and what Pearse says was “a lot” of painting.
“It’s a very involved process when you’re dealing with heritage buildings. You can’t change the colour or structure, and most of the materials have to be hand-hewn or sourced from specialty suppliers.”
However, having the site closed to the public made it easier to carry out the necessary work over the summer.
“We were able to bring in equipment like boom lifts to get access to big gable areas to paint and patch, without ruining people’s heritage experience by having tractors and trailers and forklifts running around. We were also able to stage things like lumber and store it at the cabins, rather than have to go back and forth for materials.”
Pearse says that the intention is to have Historic Hat Creek back open to the public next year. “We have three scenarios for different ways we could open, which will depend on provincial health orders. Unless the whole province shuts down, in some way or other we will be open in 2021.
“The ranch has been here since 1858. It’s seen good times and bad times, been through world wars, forest fires, all sorts of large disasters and events in history. This is just another one to chalk up on the wall.”