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Christmas shopping with a local focus

One year of browsing and buying locally came to an end for Sheila Keenan last October, but with the holidays approaching, her shopping list should keep her in New Westminster.

One year of browsing and buying locally came to an end for Sheila Keenan last October, but with the holidays approaching, her shopping list should keep her in New Westminster.

"I haven't really started my Christmas shopping, but I am planning to do most of it here. I have no desire to go back to the mall," she said.

Inspired by movements like the 100-mile diet, Keenan spent 12 months eschewing big box stores, instead hunting for interesting shops on Columbia Street and Sixth Avenue.

After four seasons of supporting New Westminster stores, Keenan said she expected to celebrate the end of the year by storming into Staples and Circle Craft, but she didn't.

"If you can go without it for a year, you can go without it," she said.

Besides a Lego advent calendar and winter coats purchased online, Keenan has stayed true to her campaign, although it hasn't always been easy.

After being praised for her missionary zeal, Keenan entertained doubts on her blog.

"I have been wondering if doing this is worth it. If it really makes any difference at all," she wrote.

"That was when I was really bored with it," she said, laughing.

After accepting the limits of her impact, Keenan also realized its worth.

"I got over my boredom, I got over my angst, and it was definitely worth doing," she said. "The amount of money I've saved in gas alone makes it worthwhile."

Although retail giants like Wal-Mart and Best Buy will likely be flooded by frantic shoppers in giant coats this Christmas, Keenan said more people than usual may choose to shop locally, partially because of the Occupy movement.

"It's one of the issues they sort of touch on," Keenan said of the anticorporate protesters. "It would tie into being in control of a community's economic destiny."

Discussing the Royal City's shopping treasures, Keenan is quick to list her favourites.

For the children on her list, Pedagogy Toys is her store of choice.

In the interest of a literate local double-dip, Keenan said she's planning to buy New Westminster author JJ Lee's book, The Measure of a Man, at Black Bond Books on Sixth Street.

One of the most interesting places Keenan unearthed during the past year is Van Dop Gallery, an art gallery run out of owner Trudy Van Dop's home.

"Last year, it was one of the first places I went. I can't believe I waited so long, because it was so cool," Keenan said. "The whole main floor and upper floor is all art."

Besides some fairly expensive paintings, Keenan said the gallery also offers more modestly priced ornaments and handmade soaps, something Keenan thought she wouldn't be able to buy locally.

With furniture available at Lofty Living, private tastings and wine glasses offered at Pacific Breeze Winery, and a wide selection of Canadian clothing at Heather's Boutique for Women, Keenan said she doesn't expect to cross any borders for her holiday shopping.

"I hope when it comes to Christmas shopping - people stay close to home," she said.

Twitter.com/jeremyshep

editorial@royalcityrecord.com