Johnson: Discovering retail treasures

Took a walk through the Towne Centre Mall recently, and discovered some new shops in the mall—and had a new look at some long-term shops.

I sure hope everyone has visited  downtown Kelowna recently to see all the work done this summer and fall.

If you have, then you’ve probably seen the beautiful new pier which enables people to walk out on the lake and look back at the city lights; the near-completion of phase 3 of the downtown revitalization; the new yacht club taking shape on Water Street; and the gorgeous new banners just unveiled this week on Bernard at Richter, designed by local aboriginal artist Janine Lott and junior artist Jordan Coble.

Took a walk through the Towne Centre Mall recently, and I was super-impressed with the way they’ve decorated the mall for Christmas.

“Christmas Street” features lots of sparkling lights and Christmas decor everywhere, and a very cool giant snowman.

I also discovered some new shops in the mall—and had a new look at some long-term shops.

One new delight in the mall is JB’s Taste of Adventure, a cafe filled with warm colours and inviting aromas.

The dynamic family who run this cafe are Mark and Jackie Jennings-Bates and their son Matt. Jackie ran a vegetarian restaurant in England, and the family wanted to share her healthy recipes.

All the food is made from scratch and totally delicious— soups, rice bowls, wraps. They even do yummy breakfast crepes and baguettes! Be sure to try their Curried Carrot Coconut soup and Butter Chicken Rice Bowl.

The ambiance at JB’s is also fabulous—richly painted walls of exotic rust, gold and yellow make you feel warm and cozy, and the giant photos on the walls from the family’s travels to Guatemala and Kenya are very striking (and also for sale). This adventurous family has created a lovely spot for breakfast or lunch. Be sure to ask them about some of their travel adventures and you’ll be highly entertained.

Another interesting new addition to the mall is Inner Haven Decor. Owner Maggie Wood is a Kelowna-based interior design technician with more than 16 years of experience. Her design philosophy is unpretentious, fun and fresh as she blends texture, colour and pattern to create comfortable and soulful surroundings for her clients. While Maggie specializes in blinds and custom draperies, she also carries beautiful designer rugs and wall coverings, and offers interior design services as well.

A shop that’s been in the mall for mall since 1999 and has built up a loyal customer following is Alexander’s Cutlery & Gifts, run by Ron Alexander. From a kiosk in the center of the mall, Alexander offers an unbelievable array of giftware, with every piece personally chosen. From his beginnings as a knife kiosk, his business has grown to include stunning jewelry by Jasmine, Painted Pony sculptures, carvings of soapstone, petrified wood and Alberta jade, beautiful glass hurricane lamps and LED candles, with every piece an original. True to his roots, he still carries a large selection of knives from companies such as Rada, Swiss Army, Katz, Kershaw and Buck. But the best part about a visit to Ron’s kiosk is having a chat with him—he’s the friendliest guy ever, and a veritable fountain of knowledge about every product he carries. Check out his  website for more info on his products,

Another really popular shop at this time of year is Amy’s Gifts. Owner Amy is also a fascinating person who has in-depth knowledge of every product she carries. Amy is in her shop every day, always ready to chat about her huge selection of giftware from around the world. She tells me that, at Christmas, her Bradford Exchange line of gifts is a big seller. Bradford offers exclusive Christmas ornaments, mugs, music boxes, snow globes and figurines. Thomas Kinkade is one of their most popular artists and his work is in big demand. Amy’s inviting shop also features souvenir T-shirts of both Kelowna and Canada, Swarovski crystal watches, an extensive selection of jewelry, and even clocks (check out her Canucks clocks). This shop is definitely worth a visit for some Christmas inspiration.

This is only a small sampling of the many shops in this charming little mall. Some of the others are Shapers Hair Salon, Heaven on Earth Spa, Annegret’s Chocolates, La Belle Boutique, Molly’s Garden Cafe & Grill, Amni Athletica, The Footwear Emporium, Mavazi Apparel, Ten Fashions Bridal Boutique and Codispoti Jewellers. Quite a variety of shops and merchandise for a mall this size. The best part is that behind every storefront is a fascinating story and some very interesting characters.

The mall is offering free gift wrapping in December, with a donation requested to Paws for a Cause; check the DKA website under “Events” for days and times. Towne Centre Mall is now decorated for Christmas, and will celebrate their own Light-Up Event on Saturday with live piano music and songs from “8Misbehaving,” an entertaining eight-woman chorus.

A don’t-miss event is downtown’s 25th annual Light Up on Saturday, Dec. 7. This year, the Downtown Kelowna Association has put together fun events such as  horse-drawn carriage rides, ice skating at Jim Stuart Park, hot air balloon rides by Kerry Park, photos with Santa at the Laurel Packinghouse and Christmas movies at the Paramount Theatre.

Santa arrives at 6 p.m. to light up the big tree by The Sails.

For more info on the various Light-Up times and events, check out the Downtown Kelowna Association website.

This year, as in years past, the city is graciously making all city parking lots and meters free of charge on Saturdays in December—so take advantage of this chance to come down, share the buzz and do lots of inspired holiday shopping with free parking.

Kelowna Capital News