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Squamish, ever wonder who's behind the fun and funky Pearl's windows?

The team at Pearl's Value and Vintage thrift store aims for light and lively in their engaging window displays.

It is the details that make the windows delightful.

The antique spoons in the mugs on the table and the doll holding a book in the basket of yarn are small details in the current Pearl’s Value & Vintage store window that draw the attention of passersby and those in line outside the popular thrift store on Cleveland Avenue. 

The current Halloween display will be changed up next week, to an Afghan blanket cozy-cocoon theme.

The windows are a collaborative affair, says Valerie Nagy, assistant manager at Pearl’s. 

With a background in design and fashion, she is also the store’s unofficial creative director. 

Nagy started working on the windows when COVID-19 hit. 

“It is so much fun,” she said. “I started doing it, and we got the other staff involved, so we have a rotation of everybody getting a turn if they want to.”

It is more work pulling the windows together than some may imagine. 

Sometimes, Nagy will be at the store until midnight the day a new display goes in. 

“You have to collect the items,” explained store manager Kate Harvey. “You have to come up with a theme and you can’t just say, ‘In three days, we are going to do this window, because where are you going to get the stuff? We have to wait for it to come in. So, it is like a procurement, really.”

The receiving team at Pearl’s will spot items that come in that will fit the theme and stash them away for a future window. 

There have been Pride windows and one for International Women’s Day; one is planned for June for National Indigenous Peoples Month, with a Squamish Nation educator coming in to work with the staff on it. 

Other times, the windows are purely from the imagination. 

 “It depends what inspires us and what is donated... Sometimes it will be one piece that is donated that we’ll go, ‘Whoa’ and have an idea around that one piece,” Nagy said, adding the goal is to make the windows collaborative, fun and engaging. 

“One of the things I think is really good is that throughout COVID, we have had lineups pretty much the whole time, so if people are waiting — especially when the weather is not great — they have something to look at with the window display, I feel like that has helped. And with COVID, people need a little pick-me-up, so we try to make them fun, and playful.” 

Harvey’s recent favourite display was the spring-themed window. 

“It was just so colourful and pretty,” she said. 

The window was set up in a backyard garden theme. 

The items featured on display are usually a bit more expensive because they are unique pieces that deserve to be highlighted, thus they bring in more money for the Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society, which operates the store.

Through the looking glass

Harvey said it is important to pay homage to Sharon Fields, who began the inspiring windows trend. 

She started as a volunteer at the store in 2014 and stumbled into being the window designer. 

“We had way less staff back then, and no one had time to tell her what to do, so someone said, ‘Maybe you could do something in the window,’ and basically, that is how she got started,” Harvey said. 

Fields created 80 window displays during her time with the store and even after she moved away in 2016, she continued coming back to Squamish to set up the windows until 2020. 

“One of the most memorable things Sharon did was a Remembrance Day window in 2015; she was talking to local veterans and getting real photos. She put a lot of care and thought into that.”

Fields crafted another Remembrance Day window in 2019, where she handmade a dress out of crepe paper poppies. 

For one of her last windows, Fields donated her own mountain bike, which became one of the most lucrative items donated. 

“She really did put us on the map for our windows,” said Harvey. “She just had that beautiful design flare, as the others do.” 

Check out the windows at Pearl's by stopping by the 38130 Cleveland Ave. store. 

For more on the store itself, go to its website.

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