Empty retail space next to the Rocky Mountaineer train station, with its daily influx of summer tourists, has turned into the little art space that could — having been transformed into the new home of the White Dog Gallery.
Gallery owner Penny Eder said she made the move from her Function Junction premises to the new location at Nita Lake Lodge after reviewing sales numbers.
"I have supplied artwork for the Nita Lake Lodge, the Scandinave Spa and the Riverside Resort for the past year. What happened last year was that 75 per cent of my sales were through those locations, so while the Function location is fabulous, it's a warehouse. It's really hard to attract people, whether fine art buyers or serious buyers, to that location," Eder says.
She said she'd spent $35,000 advertising the Function gallery but what worked for driving sales was people seeing her work at the three other locations and contacting her.
"I was spending a lot of time running between those locations," she said, calling the move to Nita Lake Lodge a natural decision.
"It's a beautiful location. It has become quite the local hotspot, just that beautiful, quiet, quintessential what we know to be the true Whistler. With the little coffee shop where we can sit outside, there's the Valley Trail right there. We can pull up our bikes right there. It's a good fit!"
And although her grand opening isn't until Nov. 9, in time for the Cornucopia opening weekend, she is open for business as of Nov. 1.
She hasn't given up the Function location entirely. She will still use it as a studio for her ceramic tile work and is renting space out to other artists.
Eder sees the move as a natural progression after a long period of growth since opening in early 2012.
"It's funny. I've been an artist and a resident of Whistler for 20-something years and very active in the art scene and it has been wonderful, but I always wanted to open up my own gallery and I did work at a couple of others along the way," she says.
"When you open a business people say to you that it's going to take two years before it's a success, but nobody ever prepares you for the instant success. I've just filled a little niche that nobody else has filled. Very personal service, very grassroots artists, great talent and they support me. I've tried to surround myself with really great people."
Nita Lake Lodge's general manager, Mike Duggan, said the hotel has already used the new gallery for special events like fundraisers, receptions and even a pre-wedding event catered from the hotel.
"It's a symbiotic relationship. We see it having an enhanced function as an area that is an extension of the hotel," he said.
"Having it means it is going to increase traffic flow into the hotel, especially our food and beverage facilities, and it adds character to our public areas."
It also is a launchpad for plans to develop Nita Lake Lodge as boutique-style "art hotel," he added.