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Tips for Shopping on PEI

Find a memory to take home
By Mary MacKay

When you buy on Prince Edward Island be ready to get more than you bargained for. A shopping tour of this slipper-shaped island may reveal traces of the past, present and future, if you're willing to let the highways and byways be your guide.

The Island's early days are preserved in many shapes and styles in roadside antique shops or frequent auction sales, where you can search for timeworn treasures hidden in the eclectic mix. Who knows, you might be lucky enough to find a piece of your own past: a vintage tin toy akin to one that provided countless hours of imaginative fun when you were a child; or perhaps a rocking chair just like the one in which your grandmother used to knit.

Unusual souvenirs

Want to bring home gifts for those hard-to-buy-for folks who have everything? Bet they don’t have a bottle of PEI moonshine  Strait Shine in the cupboard.  Or some potato or wild blueberry vodka. Or even rhubarb wine.  Any or all would make very cool take-home items – that is if you don’t drink it first. 

Old in the New

And there is something as old as aboriginal time itself at Indian Art & Craft of North America in Lennox Island. The Glooscap Collection of fine earthenware figurines -- The Gift, The Dawning and The Seasons -- depicts the creation of the Mi'kmaq people and their homeland. Produced under the guidance of proprietors Charlie and Doreen Sark, each piece is hand-poured using some of the Island's famous red clay, then fired and hand-painted at the shop, which visitors can tour for free.

"Any texts written about the legends of Glooscap are out of print," says Charlie, who is the chief of the Lennox Island Band, the largest Mi'kmaq community on Prince Edward Island. "And since it's an integral part of the historical background of the Mi'kmaq people, I figured that the legend should be preserved in some way."

Stop and Shop

Part of the joy of small towns is their small shops, where the cashier is most likely the owner, who takes pride in all that is offered. Around every corner in Victoria-by-the-Sea, 20 minutes east of Borden-Carleton, there are merchants offering everything from antiques and art to linens and sensuous chocolate.

For those who like the one-stop shopping experience, there are plenty of modern multi-shop complexes in urban centres - like Confederation Court Mall in Charlottetown or the Waterfront Shopping Centre in Summerside. Or there are collectives of shops like Spinnakers' Landing on the scenic Summerside waterfront, the PEI Factory Outlet Shops on the TransCanada Highway just west of Charlottetown, The Cavendish Boardwalk and the wide range of shops at Gateway Village at the foot of the Confederation Bridge. All present an assortment of merchants that will be sure to charm anyone who visits.

If you're planning for the future, there is one thing that gets better with age and that's the bevy of award-winning vintages from Rossignol Estate Winery in Little Sands. Just take Route 4, nine kilometres east of Wood Islands ferry terminal and you can't miss this 20-acre vineyard with a breathtaking view of the Northumberland Strait. Although some said it couldn't be done, growing grapes on PEI came easily to owners John and Lyn Rossignol, whose flowing last name is a natural for their wine labels.

"There were a few strange looks on people's faces when they heard what we were about to do, but we were determined to go ahead anyway and find out for ourselves," says John.

From the sale of the first bottle of Rossignol stock in 1995, the Rossignols have increased their original wine list from five table and fruit wines to 14, including strawberry-rhubarb, apple, raspberry and more, using the highest quality produce from local growers.

So, whether it's wine you want, a perfectly formed piece of pottery or a memory-inspiring piece of the past, there is no time like the present to explore the shops of Prince Edward Island. What are you waiting for?