Business co-owner Pam Young poses in her store. Photo by Scott Strasser.

Downtown Courtenay art gallery and paper store moving to online-only format

The South Hollow Gallery Leapenhi Paper store on Fifth Street is calling it quits later this month

In an effort to address transitional struggles in an increasingly digital age, the South Hollow Gallery Leapenhi Paper store is moving to an online-only format, after more than nine years of occupying its current space on Fifth Street.

The South Hollow Gallery Leapenhi Paper store in downtown Courtenay is both an art gallery featuring works from Vancouver Island artisans and a specialty paper store. The business offers handcrafted paper products, greeting cards, journals, and other paper-based supplies and goods.

The store’s last day will be Sunday, Feb. 24.

Business co-owner Pam Young says a slower-than-usual Christmas period was the last straw for the shop, which she acknowledged has faced economic struggles since opening in November 2008.

“I think retail is in a very transitional stage,” she said. “The impact of online shopping is really starting to affect small businesses.”

But a societal shift towards online shopping was not the only challenge, according to Young.

She said the cost of buying paper stock from India for the store’s specialty journals has gone up in recent years. She also mentioned an increase in the number of places and markets where people can buy local artwork.

“I guess I would describe it as a perfect storm of a whole bunch of little things,” she said.

Art collector Tony Deterij, a frequent visitor to the South Hollow Gallery Leapenhi Paper store, was disappointed to learn of the store’s closure.

“I’m old-fashioned,” he said. “I don’t do the internet or have a computer. I go out and live life and visit places like this. I’m sad this is the way things are going. You need to see things, you need the personalities of the shops.

“It’s sad to see things like this happening in our community.”

While Young is sad the store will shut its doors after serving downtown Courtenay for nearly a decade, she acknowledges that focusing on the business’s website — south-hollow-gallery.myshopify.com — will provide the business with new opportunities.

“We’ve had an online store for quite a while that sells certain cards and papers. But we’ve never had the time to put as much energy into that as we’d like. We thought that’s where we’ll change our focus,” she said.

Young said she and co-owner Valerie Taylor also plan to participate more often in community art events and offer classes in contemporary chigirie and other paper-based art techniques.

“We’re happy to have been here and done this. It was wonderful for us to put up local artists’ work. Generally speaking, we had 100 artists in here at any given time,” she said.

The South Hollow Gallery Leapenhi Paper store is located at 218 – 5th Street. The store will maintain regular hours until 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24.

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