Wendy Baldwin knew right away that Agassiz was the right place to open Blue Dandelion Gifts and Collectibles.
The store has an odd body feel to it – a corner filled with educational children’s toys, a table full of local art, mannequins wearing scarves and hats of all patterns and colours.
After a negotiation for shop space in Harrison fell through, Baldwin’s realtor called her in November about available space in Agassiz. The Harrison resident jumped at the opportunity.
“I knew that I’d have to get it open before Christmas otherwise I would really struggle through the slow months,” she said. “I got it open for December 9th and had two awesome weeks of sales and that really helped me survive.”
While she has a history in sales, Baldwin is a first-time business owner. She’s not sure how the rising minimum wage and health premiums will impact her business just yet, but she is confident in her decision to open in Agassiz.
“I have fallen in love with Agassiz,” she said. “I chose to do this because I knew that it’s a small community but it’s growing. And Harrison is growing. And there’s this bridge between us and Chilliwack, and there’s a distance between us and Mission.”
“I’m trying to make it a little bit more like a community store.”
According to 2016 census data released by Statistics Canada, growth across the Fraser Valley has been significant. While Harrison, remarkably, had the exact same 1,468-person population over a five year span, the District of Kent saw a 7.1 per cent increase to 6,067 residents, a higher volume of growth than Hope, Mission and even Abbotsford.
Real estate numbers support that data. The Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board, (CADREB) which includes Agassiz and Harrison, has continued to see an influx of buyers from the Vancouver area since January and remains a seller’s market.
“I knew that there would be some type of a need. I didn’t know to what extent,” Baldwin said of her decision to start a business in the area. “I know that there has been stores here in the past, very similar, gift stores. But I know now…with housing and everybody selling and moving further and further out…I knew there was more influx of younger families here.”
“I felt that this area could sustain a gift shop as long as you do it the right way. It has to be things that are quality, it has to be things that are reasonable.”
Baldwin said that even with her second store set to open in Harrison this month, her main focus will always be Agassiz.
“I may start up another store, but this is where my heart is, and this will always be,” she said. “This is what I work towards owning and keeping forever.”
With files from Paul Henderson.