Owner Marla Ebell turns a stylist's eye on everyday objects.
My mother once gave me a natural linen tea towel she’d purchased at an antique store. It was embroidered with my first initial (likely why it had appealed to her in the first place) and had been carefully mended in two places. Someone took care of this once, she said. In Victoria, Marla Ebell displays that same appreciation and reverence for well-considered, essential household objects. Her photogenic shop, Hold General Store, which just marked its one-year anniversary, is an homage to mercantile stores of the past—the kind that used to dot coastal towns all over Vancouver Island and Canada beyond. Ebell’s favourite is Port Neville’s long-shuttered outpost, where containers and enamelware are displayed like museum exhibits. There’s a place for such stores today, Ebell believes: “I think people are trying to connect to the simplicity of well-made basics,” she says. “With a general store, I can tell the full story, from maker to finished item.” Like similar stores that have emerged in recent years (Atelier St. George, Old Faithful Shop), Hold carries a slim inventory of locally and internationally made objects that fulfill their intended use simply and bear a timeless aesthetic. Some items are established household staples, like the matte-black Sheffield scissors that are made-to-order for the shop; others are destined to become classics in the years to come, like the hand-thrown porcelain pieces made by Victoria ceramicist Gwen Howey, whose minimalist planters and vases, available in multiple sizes, are a shop favourite. Beyond the household goods and linen textiles sourced from Le Fil Rouge and Wovenwares, among others, Ebell also brings in fresh, seasonal produce from her grandparents’ 23-acre certified organic farm in nearby Nanoose Bay. Radishes and herbs are bundled into bouquets or carefully wrapped in paper and string or washi tape—a practice she got into years ago while visiting the farmers’ markets around the island with her family. “I wanted our display to feel really special, because the process of growing the food was so special to my grandparents.” Today, she makes regular trips out to their farm and other like-minded growers in the area to replenish her inventory (fava beans, garlic scapes, artichokes, squashes, and buckets of fresh salad greens figure prominently). Going forward, Ebell has plans to schedule in-store events (read: workshops on preserving), and to host long-table dinners with local chefs, using the store’s display tables and benches she designed with that additional purpose in mind. “It translates the values of the store into food,” she says. “Keeping that connection going is really important.”
Hold General Store
422 Craigflower Rd., Victoria holdgeneral.ca