Next month Paulette and Blake McCarthy are closing the Bastion Gallery, 890 Crace St., after 38 years. (Photo courtesy Susan Bibbs)

Nanaimo’s Bastion Gallery closing after 38 years

Custom framing and restoration business survived Jean Burns Building fire

This Christmas will be the first one Bastion Gallery owners Paulette and Blake McCarthy will have to themselves in 38 years.

“There were some Christmases … we would be working until 3 a.m. just so we could get all these Christmas presents ready for everybody who were giving framed pictures,” Paulette said.

The McCarthys have run the Bastion Gallery since 1981 and on Nov. 30 the custom framing and restoration shop will close its doors permanently.

“It’s time,” Paulette said. “Blake is six years older than I am and, well, I’ve been working ever since I was 13.”

Paulette added that changes in the framing and restoration industry also contributed to their decision to retire.

“The appreciation for this kind of craftsmanship is there, but it’s not there enough now to warrant a huge shop like this because everything comes from China and it’s ready-made,” she said.

However, one of the biggest challenges they faced was the Jean Burns Building fire of 2016. Paulette said when she arrived on the scene, “I remember not hearing anything except the banging of my heart in my ears.”

She said they had to haul their equipment through water and rubble and when they relocated to 890 Crace St. two weeks later she had doubts they could go on.

“It took us about four and a half months to clean everything and plug it back in,” she said. “And during that period is when clients kept coming here and dropping their work off.”

In lieu of a going-out-of-business party, from now until the end of November the McCarthys are welcoming friends to drop by for biscuits and reminiscence.

Paulette said what she’ll remember most is the people they’ve met over the years. She said the store was a longtime participant in the downtown’s old Halloween Howl event in which children trick-or-treated at downtown businesses.

“People were bringing their little kids (and) all of a sudden, the little kids were bringing their little kids…” she said. “It kind of made you feel old but it was very gratifying to see that continue because you’ve made an impact in someone’s life, even if it’s a small, little way.”

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