Driving into the heart of Qualicum Beach, one of the most eye-catching storefronts is Alcove Homegrown Living. It’s a magnet for visitors, but locals return to Alcove for the calibre of workmanship and innovative designs of the products featured, all sourced from skilled artisans located within 150 kilometers of QB. The carefully curated, evolving line of handmade products is what keeps customers coming back.
The store carries a surprisingly broad array of products, from clothing, pottery and food items to jewelry, art cards and men’s grooming products. Alcove features products from over 50 local craftspeople, artists, food producers and other creators.
Alcove’s enticing window displays are no accident. Owner Cheryl Campbell has the marketing and design chops. After studying Visual Merchandising Arts in Toronto at Sheridan College and at Seneca College, she worked for major companies including The Bay, Fairweathers and BMW Canada as well as smaller regional retailers. Prior to launching Alcove Homegrown Living, Cheryl worked for two large malls in Nanaimo, Woodgrove Centre and North Town Centre, at the latter as Marketing Director. “I’m grateful for all that I learned in the industry,” she says, “but my love is for small, independent retailers.”
Twenty-seven years ago, Cheryl and her husband Mike moved from Ontario directly to Qualicum Beach. In search of a place to put down roots, they had combed Vancouver and the Island. “But, we just kept coming back to this area,” says Cheryl of the couple’s decision to make QB their home and raise a family. “It felt like home.” Their two, now twenty-something, children have also chosen to work and live on the Island.
“I never thought I would open a retail store,” says Cheryl, a first-time entrepreneur, noted for her glorious raven haired curls and warm smile. “I had worked as a freelancer for so many merchants. I saw how hard they worked and I thought, wow, I don’t know if I could ever do that. It’s a complicated business. Not for the faint of heart.” What changed her mind? Cheryl’s career to that point required a lot of business travel, and all that travel had begun to lose its appeal. She wanted to be closer to home.
Ironically, the genesis for Alcove Homegrown Living was all that business travel. “Whenever I would travel abroad for my work or on vacation,” she says, “I would seek out local artisan-made things to bring home. They were always hard to find. So I thought I would like to open a store here to showcase our local folks.” Her personal passion blossomed into entrepreneurial reality in 2016 when a desirable retail space became available on QB’s main street, Memorial Avenue, near Second Avenue West. “It all came together quickly,” says Cheryl. The store opened in June 2016, four months later.
Cheryl says the store is a “family collaboration.” Both of their children have had a hand in the business. Cheryl credits daughter Kyla Campbell for suggesting the name Alcove. Son Geoff Campbell, who studied Communication Design at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, developed the brand, built Alcove’s website landing page and designed the store’s logo and marketing materials.
“Top of mind was the brand,” says Cheryl. She wanted the store’s brand to reflect their lifestyle here in Qualicum Beach and her values — supporting local artisans in their creation of ethical, sustainable, hand-made products. The tricky part was deciding how much and what products to carry. “We had our vision,” she says, “but then I needed to listen [to customers] to see where that took us.” Creating community connections is one of Cheryl’s strengths. “It’s all about the people,” she says.
Then along came COVID. Initially, like many other merchants, the staff were laid off, and Alcove shut its doors. Cheryl took the time to rethink and retool her operations. “The main thing was hopping on social media.” That kept Cheryl in touch with her many repeat customers, and with artisans who were also reeling from the constraints of the pandemic.
Son Geoff helped to create an online store, something that had not previously been high on Cheryl’s priority list. And although that proved successful, Cheryl says people still love to come into the store to better appreciate the nature and quality of specific products which, happily, they now can. She and her staff take pride in providing excellent customer service.
With all of their products sourced from within 150 km of Qualicum Beach, Alcove Homegrown Living has been less impacted by the infamous supply chain problem than many other businesses. However, Cheryl confirms that some makers of skin care products have had difficulty sourcing containers.
Today, Cheryl’s work travel itinerary mirrors that of Alcove’s brand — homegrown. Her once heavy schedule of international travel has been replaced by road trips to visit artisans and maker shows across Vancouver Island, on Saltspring and in Vancouver to source and promote the incredible one-of-a-kind quality artisan products emerging right in her own “backyard.”
She wouldn’t have it any other way.
ALCOVE HOMEGROWN LIVING is located at 689 Memorial Avenue, Qualicum Beach, BC. | 250.594.5483 Hours: Mon-Sat 10-5 and Sun 11-4