Virtual Sale #5: Nelson


There is a perception in BC – and around the world – that Nelson is a blissed-out hippy utopia where dread-locked wizards vibe on the giant crystal under the town. And, sure enough, they are there, sitting in the bus shelter at Ward and Baker wrapped in dangling amulets and a chillum cloud of self-satisfaction.

But it wasn’t always that way. A massive silver strike in the 1890’s generated so much wealth that not only did the city go on a building spree of grand Victorian stone structures, but it got Francis Rattenbury, the architect of the BC legislature and the Empress Hotel to design them. While the elite may have enjoyed gadding down Baker St. with their parasols and plumes, Nelson was a working class town, and the fabulous Capitol Theatre made its money off of vaudville, not Caruso. Nelson remained a blue-collar town for 100 years, transitioning from mining to forestry. All that changed in 1982, when the Kootenay Forest Products mill shut down.

Leading up to this, another seismic shift was happening culturally. Partly influenced by the idealism and pacifism of the numerous Doukhobor settlers in the region, Nelson became a magnet for draft dodgers from the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese call it “the American War”). Bringing an activist, alternative energy (and an affinity for the “home grown”), they were instrumental in transforming Nelson from just another depressed mill town into what it is today. At the time, for instance, the heritage buildings along Baker St were covered with aluminum siding, and the roof of the Capitol Theatre had fallen in.

I used to live near Nelson, and the good friends we have in the Kootenays are the reason that we added it to our “range”. At first we rented the North Shore Hall, which was big and cheap, but it became increasingly problematic, especially after vermiculite was discovered in the walls during renovations. Fortunately one of our customers, Teresa Hart, offered us an alternative. A veterinarian, Teresa had bought the old Anglican Cathedral hall for her practice. She actually bought the office space in the “basement”, and a beautiful, if somewhat time-worn, hall came with it. Located at Ward and Carbonate, amid big trees and old houses and three blocks from Baker St, the location was great. Even better we were a block from Oso Negro, our friend Jon Meyer’s monument to love, Nelson and coffee, and an essential touchstone in the city today.

Unfortunately (for us) during the winter Teresa found a long-term tenant for the hall, and we had to find a venue elsewhere. The only other suitable alternative, after much searching, was the Rod and Gun Club, at the base of the impressive Cottonwood Falls, where the Saturday Farmer’s Market is held. So here we are (virtually, in Covid time), and it is wonderful that you could join us in Nelson!

The good news is that there is only one Virtual Sale left this season; next week in our home town of Chemainus. And then we are going live! We are thrilled to be confirmed in all of our summer venues, and can’t wait to REALLY get our show on the road!

Check out my new home page here, to find our schedule and much more.

Thanks for coming along and see you next week,

Your Friends,

Katheryn and David

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