A business supporting Indigenous artists and makers by selling their products has opened a new storefront in Campbell River.
Wildflowers & Co., an Indigenous-owned and operated store launched eight month ago by Alissa Assu, held a grand opening June 15 for its new location in Tyee Plaza.
Assu, originally from Wet’suwet’en First Nation, started the shop as an online venture from her father-in-law’s garage. She later started a pop-up store for the business, the success of which convinced her to move it to a permanent location downtown.
“We decided, ‘let’s do this for real,” she said.
Assu’s idea for the business was born out of the pandemic, which blocked many of the usual paths artists and creators use to sell their products.
“I thought, ‘who is going to help all these local families survive during COVID, when we have no market and when we don’t have anything?'” she said. “If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that family and community are really important.”
Wildflowers & Co. features an ‘authentic Indigenous’ affiliate program, in which Assu pays artists directly for their products. She has also committed to 75 per cent of her inventory being Canadian, with an emphasis on products being ethical, sustainable, and low-waste.
The move to the new store was made over a “very hectic” 72-hours. Assu was helped by fellow entrepreneurs, as well has her husband.
“It was really a majority of Indigenous women coming together, and they just helped so much,” she said. “It was ‘all hands on deck.'”
Karen Bezaire, owner of Bezaire Floral & Events, created a decorative floral arch representing her “version of a rainbow” to not only commemorate the store’s opening but also to recognize Pride, including Indigenous Two-Spirited people.
“I really wanted to do a public installation for people to come by and have it invoke something inside of them,” said Bezaire. “I just felt like people needed a celebration, because there was just a lot of hurting outcry when they discovered the 250 children (at the Kamloops residential school).”
Assu has been instrumental in supporting female and Indigenous entrepreneurs from Campbell River and beyond, said Bezaire, whose dried floral arrangements are sold in the store and has plans for a pop-up flower stand there at certain times.
“The more places recognizing and carrying Indigenous makers, the more they will thrive,” she said.