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Shop Hopping on Main

by Jake Daly

Welcome to Main Street, the vibrant heart of downtown Smithers that draws in both locals and visitors with its alpine-themed charm and an inviting community spirit.

Red brick sidewalks wind their way through a picturesque streetscape, framed by colorful alpine-themed storefronts and striking art murals, while the stunning mountain backdrop adds to the allure.

At the intersection of Main Street and Highway 16, the main connector between the communities of Northwestern BC, stands an iconic statue of the 'Alpenhorn Man,' a beloved sculpture by renowned chainsaw carver Joerg Jung. But the real magic of Main Street lies in its eclectic collection of shops and the warmth of its merchants, who turn even a quick shopping trip into a memorable Smithers experience.

Out of Hand | Photo Jake Daly

"You can find everything you need, right here in downtown Smithers." says Lynn, Founder of Out of Hand, a Cooperative of Northern BC Food Producers & Artisans that has become a local favourite since opening their doors in 2019. As soon as you step into Out of Hand, you’ll see what Lynn means.

Out of Hand | Photo Jake Daly

The collective features an incredible collection of locally-produced food products and crafts, from local honey, produce and meats, to artisanal grab-and-go lunches, to wood-turned bowls and countless perfect gift ideas. And Out of Hand is just the beginning. Around every corner in downtown Smithers there are incredible shops that are near-impossible to walk by.

Illyria owner Eleanor Stewart | Photo Jake Daly

“My mom’s friends regularly make the trip here all the way from Kitimat, just to shop!” says local Smithereen, Maddie Kuppers. We’ve bumped into Maddy in Illyria, another of downtown Smithers’ newer offerings that has fast become a local go-to for all things house and home.

Illyria | Photo Jake Daly

Having grown up as a child of high-end lodge owners, Illyria’s owner, Eleanor Stewart, has design and attention to detail in her DNA. You can feel it as soon as you enter her ‘shoppe’. The lighting, the visually-stunning arrangement of what Eleanor describes as ‘elevated everyday essentials’, and even the smell - cozy and intriguing. Everything about the vibe of Illyria is fully on-point. “I’ve always been attracted to beautiful things and well-designed spaces” explains Eleanor. “Curating the collection at Illyria is such a fun way to explore, and to share that creativity.”

Salt Boutique owner Caroline Marko | Photo Jake Daly

On the South side of Main Street, directly across from Illyria, is another renowned Smithers shop, Salt Boutique, known for drawing in customers from neighboring communities. Outside the shop’s front entrance, a prominently-displayed t-shirt states in bold black letters “NEW YORK, LONDON, PARIS, SMITHERS, TOKYO”. The playful statement is representative of the pride that Smithers locals, including Salt’s owner, Caroline Marko, hold for their unique northern town, but it also seems fitting for the store; Salt feels like a boutique more likely to be found in a major metropolis than on the quaint Main Street of Smithers, BC.

“I come from a long line of designers and tailors.” shares Caroline.

Salt Boutique | Photo Jake Daly

And it shows. Born in Sweden, Salt’s founder has injected style and design into every one of her endeavors since moving to Northern BC. “I started Salt to bring something that I was good at as a way to contribute to this community.” From the assortment of high-end women’s apparel, to the revolving collection of shoes, jewelry and accessories, browsing the collection at Salt Boutique undeniably injects you with a feeling akin to a trip to the city.

Photo Jake Daly

Ask any local in Smithers, and they’ll tell you there’s no such thing as a quick shop downtown. Without exception, an intended in-and-out of a downtown shop will take longer than anticipated. Smithereens are notoriously friendly, and the number of times you will be drawn into conversations while walking down Main Street is a common laughing point among locals.

“Shop-hopping down Main Street is so much fun” laughs long-time local Emma Anderson, “but you better not be in a hurry!”. She’s referring as much to the impromptu conversations with friends as she is to the inevitability of being drawn into unplanned shop-visits by the merchants and their inviting window displays.

Mountain Eagle Books | Photo Jake Daly

Another Smithers staple, and a classic pit-stop during extended downtown visits, is Mountain Eagle Books. The charming used bookstore is a beloved gathering place revered for both the welcoming vibe of owner, Janet Walford, and its well-deserved reputation for having the ‘best chai in town’.

Mountain Eagle Books owner Janet Walford | Photo Jake Daly

“Mountain Eagle has been here in downtown Smithers for 35 and a half years.” boasts Janet. The old-guard Smithereen is humble by nature, but the pride for her business and her community shines through. “One of the wonders of Mountain Eagle is that it’s attracted the various factions in the arts community. That made it an interesting spot for people to stop by and have good chats and just hang out and meet other good people.”

Mountains & Meadows owner Shaelé Hanson | Photo Jake Daly

Half a block east from Mountain Eagle is the location of another newer business, Mountains & Meadows. Owner Shaelé Hanson opened her shop, a bespoke children's boutique, with new mothers as well as her own four boys in mind.

Mountains & Meadows | Photo Jake Daly

And clearly, she’s on to something. The shop has fast-become a favorite gathering place for new parents, and more importantly, their kids. “My favourite thing is to see kids pressed up against the window, excited to come in and explore the store”. Shaele is quick to speak of the strong sense of community in downtown Smithers, and her appreciation for being a part of that alongside some of the longer-established Smithers staples.

Hetherington & Hooper owners Mike Bovill and Kelly Ehalt | Photo Jake Daly

Without a doubt, one of the oldest and most iconic shops on Main Street is Hetherington & Hooper. The classic clothing store, run by brother and sister team Mike Bovill and Kelly Ehalt, and has been in business on Mainstreet in Smithers for 73 years. “In 1962, our dad Jack went to work for Gordon Heatherington and Owen Hooper, and today Mike and I are still operating the store, 73 years later.” recounts Kelly.

Hetherington & Hooper | Photo Jake Daly

And this history is highly valued by their many loyal customers. Combining timeless brands like Stanfield, Redwing and Filson with an old school customer service no longer readily-found, Hetherington & Hooper is a must-visit while shop-hopping your way down mainstreet.

ReJar Zero Waste owner Emilie Hayhurst | Photo Jake Daly

The last business we stop into on today’s trip down Main Street is Rejar. Rejar is another newer business in the downtown Smithers scene, founded by Emilie Hayhurst in 2019. Emile had a longtime vision for a greener way to shop, eliminating ‘single-waste’ plastic by having her customers bring their own jars and containers to refill with their everyday essentials.

“ReJar Zero Waste has been a dream of mine for years now and I’m excited to see it come to life.” says Emilie. “It feels amazing to be able to showcase a lifestyle and ethical, sustainable products that I truly believe in.”

ReJar Zero Waste | Photo Jake Daly

From locally-sourced soaps, produce and freshly-baked sourdough, to eco-friendly everyday essentials sourced from abroad, the collection of products Emilie has featured is clearly a hit; the shop is a revolving bustle of locals of all stripes, delighted with the shopping experience that Emilie has reimagined.

Smithers’ main street is iconic. Whether you’re window shopping, connecting with friends over a meal or drinks, or just popping in ‘quickly’ to grab some groceries, there really is no better place to shop-hop than main street in Smithers BC.

photo of Jake Daly

Jake Daly is a Smithers-based hot sauce maker and wilderness guide who can most often be found floating down the Widzin Kwah with his gal and gigantic pup.

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