Prince Edward Island strongly supports small independent businesses from restaurants to artisans who run their craft shops out of private properties. At the restaurants this was evident from the hand-held credit card machines the waiters brought to your table at the end of the meal. We learned from one of our waiters that all the restaurants are part of a small business association with one credit card system.
In my previous post I mentioned that driving the coast road is an encouraged tourist activity on Prince Edward Island. While driving the Island we discovered that this activity must be strongly encouraged due to the surprising number of independent artisan and craft shops that can be found along your drive. Micah and I love shopping local and supporting independent artisans, so we couldn’t resist pulling over to check out several of the shops. These included craft shops, a distillery, and a winery.
Pottery By the Sea, North Rustico
We stopped at a pottery shop where I decided I would have bought half the stock if I could have gotten it home! There was an interesting mix of everything from goofy to fancy. There were hanging wall pots for pencils or a toothbrush, funny shot glasses with faces, and fancy dishware for nice dinners. Meanwhile, Micah was captivated by the fact that there were vents in the floor that looked directly down at the potter working below. Sadly, the clay is not local, but the pots are made local, so it’s….semi-local?
Red House Art Gallery, Mt. Stewart
We stopped at a house with a sign for an appropriately titled shop, Red House Art Gallery. We walked up on the porch, viewed the paintings in the open shed with the “Sale” sign on it, guessing these were the ones the artist wasn’t thrilled with. Then we somewhat awkwardly walked into the covered arctic entry space outside the front door and explored a set of watercolor paintings. It seemed a little strange just to be walking around somebody’s porch. That’s when the door opened and the owner invited us into the house to view even more paintings! (There were two very kind dogs that helped us explore as well!) Inside the house’s arctic entry and living room were oil and watercolor paintings. Many were Plein Air and they definitely captured the beauty of various locations on the island, including the view out the artist’s own window. She had captured the dilapidated buildings of North Rustico just perfectly. She joked that the one of her own view might be called “Foggy Air”, or “Plein Finettre” (French for Window). Again, if I could have fit them in my suitcase, I would have brought half of her watercolors back with me!
According to the website, all profits go to causes that assist the visually impaired. For those of us with enough vision to left to view the paintings, you can check out her work at the her website: Red House Art Gallery Website
Island Artifacts Eclectic Gifts & Bent Island Creations, Oyster Bed
A little later we pulled into a drive with a sign for Island Artifacts Eclectic Gifts. This shop appeared to be a transformed two-story garden shed in the backyard of a young woman’s property. There was also a pen with a family of goats we could feed. So of course we did. The baby was cute, the male was very greedy and tried to butt heads to move the other two out of the way.
In the shop were mostly maritime themed crafts from over 40 local artisans, which certainly made for an eclectic lot. Within the lot, however, I noticed some very pretty rings made out of a single bead and bent wire. I found a ring with a pretty pink bead which happened to match my nail polish. Unfortunately the ring was too big. When I mentioned to the young woman behind the desk how pretty I thought it was, she offered to quickly make me a ring in the right size! This was not only her shop, but her jewelry studio, called Bent Island Creations. In only a few seconds she had a new ring done! …but even that one was too big. She ended up making three for me before one fit well!
Wool Sweater Company, Rustico Bay
Our last stop on this drive was the Wool Sweater Company in Rustico Bay. Someday I want one of those white wool fishermen sweaters. Though they seem stiff and they’re probably itchy. I learned that dust mites don’t live in wool! So these sweaters would be good for those of us sadly prone to dust mite allergies! I also learned that the sweater’s pattern used to denote where the sailor came from so drunken and drowned men could be returned to their correct ships and home ports!
While it was hot and sunny out during our visit, I imagine had we visited outside of the month of July, I definitely would have deemed it necessary to buy one of those sweaters before leaving the shop!
Finally, we drove by a shop called Knit Picks, but it was closed. I like the name though.
Victoria by the Sea
Jeannie Gallacher, the owner of Bent Island Creations Jewelry, had recommended that if I liked local artisan shops, which I had expressed my admiration for while she made my ring, we should visit Victoria by the Sea. I had read that this was a picturesque little place with some fun shops, so we made a stop on our way back to Charlottetown from Cavendish. It was indeed very small. There is a small pier with a restaurant and two shops, and a very tiny beach (like 100ft long, maybe?) where it seemed all the residents had come to spend the sunny day. We walked all 2 blocks of Victoria and found a few more cute little shops and eateries. Ewe and Dye was a pottery and weaving shop in the front room of a house. The owner and his brother-in-law sat rocking in chairs outside as we entered. He sold his hand painted pottery and his wife’s weaving and hand spun yarn from their own shop. This was my favorite shop out of all the ones we visited.
There was another shop full of gaudy jewelry run by a matronly woman. We made our exit as soon as possible. The residents of Victoria certainly were an interesting lot. Many retired folks working their dream independent shops. Most of the other shops sold beach themed trinkets. Funny since the beach here in Victoria is so minimal.
We stopped for lunch at a fried food and burger cart and for dessert went to the Island Chocolate Co. We met the owner who told us about his annual trips to Ecuador where he works the process through and brings blocks of chocolate back to PEI. He melts the blocks down, mixes them, and sells his personally worked bars. So this too was…semi-local?
And if this isn’t enough to convince you to love this little place, this flyer I found on a wall surly will. How can you not love a place that has an annual croquet tournament, complete with theme dress?
Wineries & Distilleries
Matos Winery & Distillery, St. Catherines
After a little chocolate and caffeine, Micah was refreshed and ready to regroup. My terrible lack of map reading skill (though in this case I still maintain that part of the blame lies in the maps I was given), had caused us to miss a winery on our way to Victoria By the Sea. So after lunch we used Google Maps to find the route to a different winery between us and Charlottetown. This time we had enough cell service to use Google Maps, so we found our desired destination. Matos Winery & Distillery is a small operation, but has become a stop on the PEI Flavours Culinary Trail, according to the stickers on the door. We were lucky in that we arrived with enough time for a private tasting before the shop was expecting a bus tour full of people. The shopkeeper, a retired American school teacher who spends her summers on PEI, poured some sample glasses for Micah. He enjoyed them while I sniffed at them and scrunched up my nose. I did actually taste an Orange Liqueur. I thought it too sickly sweet, but I don’t like alcohol, so I’m not a good judge.
After the tasting we took a walk around the growing vineyard that surrounds the red barn like winery/distillery/shop/home. The vineyard is made up of vines brought from France and replanted here on PEI. The various sections of the vineyard differ in growing years because the plants have been brought over in shifts. While one section was sparse and small, others were very leafy and the beginning of grapes had just begun to appear on the vine.
Deep Roots Distillery, Warren Grove
Deep Roots Distillery is also part of the PEI Flavours Culinary Trail. We had spent all day indulging my literary tourism obsession at the Green Gables and L. M. Montgomery heritage sites, so it was time to allow Micah to choose the activity. As he loves to travel for good food and drink, he found the closest distillery. After a few wrong turns we pulled up at a small red barn building beside a house. The barn had been converted into a shop and distillery.
The sign in the drive had said open, but when we pulled up and knocked on the door a woman told us it was Monday and they were closed. A second later a young man came to the door and said, “Actually… I opened today, because I’m here.” The woman, apparently the wife of the owner, then let us in and returned to the house. The young man was the summer helper. He let us in and while I looked at the small-operation syrups on sale, Micah enjoyed a tasting and chatted about brewing with the guy. I was more excited about the syrup from Hazel Grove Sugar Shack. Syrup from any small operation is going to be so much better than anything mass produced.
I am now dreaming about opening my own craft shop in my backyard on a piece of property on PEI in my retirement. It certainly seems the thing to do.