Even though Historic Hat Creek will not be opening for the 2020 season, there will be a lot going on at the site, including the opportunity for private, VIP shopping experiences throughout the summer.
“The idea came to me after we had a couple of people who were talking to me about coming to the gift shop, even though we were closed,” says site manager Don Pearse. A new gift shop opened at Historic Hat Creek in 2017, and earlier this year staff were in Toronto for the Cangift show, a five-day event for Canadian retailers.
“Vendors show all their new products,” says Pearse, “and we bought a lot of new inventory for this year.” A focus was to purchase high quality Indigenous tourism products and expand that aspect of the shop, including jewellery made by people of the Sto:lo Nation in the Mission area, dreamcatchers, hand-beaded items, moccasins, and more, almost all of it authentic and made in Canada.
With a fully stocked gift shop but the site closed, Pearse says he got a call from a regular customer who comes every year. “She knows we have a lot of nice First Nations items, so we let her come in. Then another person wanted to support us, and asked if they could come in and do some shopping. I thought ‘That’s interesting,’ and bounced it off a couple of staff members.”
“It” was the idea of letting people book a time to come visit the gift shop privately, in parties of no more than four people, in order to provide a revenue stream for 2020 and help maintain the site so it can reopen in 2021 in great shape. “Staff said that since they were here anyway, they could stop what they were doing and open the gift shop for an hour.”
Thus was born the VIP shopping experience, which Pearse says is open to anyone, but is mainly focused on people within a 100km radius of Historic Hat Creek. Anyone interested can contact the site and book a day and time for them and up to three guests to come out to the site. They will be welcomed to a freshly-sanitized shop where an attendant will greet them with fresh-baked cookies and hot and cold beverages. Guests will be able to browse the gift shop in private, with only one group admitted at a time.
“People can come in and be comfortable,” says Pearse. “They can shop at their leisure. Everything has discounts applied to it, including memberships for the 2021 season. There’s no cost upfront, and no minimum purchase. People can choose to buy nothing, and we’re okay with that.”
There have been four private visits to the shop so far, with another two already booked. “We had people here today from Clinton and they thought it was the best thing and had a ball. They said they were going to go home and tell everyone about it.
“We want to get people out to the property and encourage them to buy locally, but there’s no pressure. We just want activity at the site. People can come out and see that it’s still lively. The lawns are mowed, flowers are growing at the house, the place is still here and in good shape, and it will be for 2021.”
Pearse says that even though the site is closed for the season, there are a number of projects in the planning stages. “Most of them are tidying up, making small repairs to buildings, refreshing them with new paint, new gates going up. There’s lots of things going on. The project list will keep us busy all summer.”
He has also heard some positive murmurs about the 2021 season already. “Some companies have been asking about our rates for 2021, and we already have one contract signed. Everyone is expecting to be back with a vengeance for 2021, and the site will be refreshed and nicely painted and we’ll be here to greet them.”
The VIP shopping experience at Historic Hat Creek can be booked for almost any day and most evenings. Discounts will be applied to every purchase, with some items priced at up to 50 per cent off, and there is a 10 per cent discount on 2021 memberships. Bookings can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by sending a message via the Historic Hat Creek Facebook page.