M Gallery | Book is the place to pick up the work of an emerging Canadian writer or artist from the curated selection of gallery owner Jeannette Montgomery. It's also part of the Main Street buzz, a core of independent businesses working in loose collaboration to improve the cultural experience in Penticton.
Q: Why did you choose Penticton as the place to set up shop?
A: My fella and I moved from Vancouver to the Okanagan in 2007. The only wrinkle in our new happy land was finding where to buy new art and Canadian literature. So, M gallery | book was a pie-in-the-sky answer to those needs.
Penticton was a natural choice. Market research indicates growth ahead, and the city is in close proximity to both Osoyoos and Kelowna so Okanagan locals and visitors can make an easy day trip.
The goal is to set up remote locations, and engage with local businesses from Vernon to Osoyoos where I can showcase the works of Canadian artists while retaining the online shop for art and books together.
Q: What were the challenges in establishing the business?
A: According to my investment advisor, I'm risk-adverse. The first hurdle was to overcome that and trust myself to take the plunge.
Knowing how the mechanics of setting up a business – licenses, taxes, and such – is another challenge, but I was better prepared than I thought. I've worked in business for almost twenty years. And I have smart business mentors.
The Okanagan poses a unique challenge in a good way. My shop isn't for everyone, and that's okay. The area is fairly seasonal but that's slowly changing.
Q: How would you describe the collaborative work you do?
A: The first year is all about bartering with other local businesses and mutually supporting each other. We need to show customers those relationships. Even if they don't buy something, they get an idea of how I do business. That's important to me.
I work with local shops so we're not overlapping. Brigitte and Stefano at Saint Germain Café and Gallery are good friends, and I'll recommend an artist to them when the art better suits their space and vice versa. When I order books, I visit Judy at Hooked on Books so the CanLit titles I get aren't ones she carries.
In the new business model there is no such thing as competition. There's only collaboration. Online consumer behaviour has changed it for us, and I’m glad.
Q: What emerging voices are you interested in right now?
A: Hyper-locally, I'm stoked to represent Jenny Long and Sarah Fahey. Both live in Penticton, and although they have very different styles they each offer something so fresh in how they see things.
For CanLit, I just brought in Alice Hearts Welsh Zombies by Victoria Dunn (The Workhorsery), the poetry collection Whisk by collaborative group Yoko's Dogs (Pedlar Press), and Belinda's Rings by Kelowna author Corinna Chong (NeWest Press). Our Canadian publishers and authors are doing awesome things.
Q: What are the challenges in sharing their voices?
A: With emerging art and literature, it's crucial to gain the trust of consumers. I'm building that, slowly. I curate this interesting collection of artists and authors and I ask that clients trust my decisions. It's a big ask.
Q: How does the work you do at M gallery| book tie into the other work you do?
A: Aside from having my shop, I also work as a freelance writer. I have more free time now than I did when working for other people. I can focus on client work during quiet times at the shop rather than squeezing it in evenings and weekends. My fella is really happy about that.