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Port Alberni furniture store changes hands after 77 years

After 77 years, Jowsey's Furniture in Port Alberni will not have a family member at the helm

Jowsey’s furniture store has been a constant in the Valley for 77 years. Aili and Jack Jowsey opened the store on lower Johnston Road in 1947, and the store has always had a Jowsey at the helm. That is about to change.

Jennifer Norn and her husband Mark took over the business in 1996; Jennifer is the third generation to run Jowsey's, which celebrated its 70th birthday in May 2017. The Norns moved back to the Alberni Valley from the Kootenays when Jennifer was in her early 20s to take over the store from her father, Brian Dodsworth.

Several years ago Jennifer was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and she has found that it is slowing her down. She and Mark want to take on camping around the Island and province while they can. They made the difficult choice to put the store up for sale, and when a buyer couldn't be found were making plans to close it this month.

“If we had stayed we would have had to change with the times and do more online selling. Our business has always been based on a walk-in type of business," said Mark. "This change is not an economic decision as we are doing very well. This in large part to our loyal clientele who have come here for generations of their families. We are also fortunate to have such dedicated staff that they knew we were going to close but wanted to stay with us until we closed the doors."

At the 11th hour, another longtime Alberni Valley family came forward and purchased the business and the name, and intend to keep it running. Joanne See, whose husband is Albert See Jr., and their daughter Jenella are taking over the store.

"We are very pleased that the Sees will be keeping our staff and Jowsey’s will remain in the Valley," Mark Norn said. "Jennifer and I have been together for 31 years and married for 29, and this is now time to spend more quality time together.”
“We hope that all of our regular customers will continue to support the See family. We are going to miss all of you,” both Norns said.

Joanne See (nee Weismiller) was born and raised in the Alberni Valley and is looking forward to running Jowsey's. She is a teacher at John Paul II School and will remain there while overseeing the store.

“I am so pleased to have this opportunity to continue a business that might not have continued. My daughter Jenella will also be a part of the business. This has been a really positive transition in what is a win-win situation. I am thrilled that the staff are staying with us. I look forward to meeting the loyal clientele that has kept Jowsey’s a household name.
“We are expecting a huge load of stock and are painting the upstairs and will also be painting the main floor,” Joanne said. She will also be adding outdoor furniture and a larger selection of linens in the 17,000-square-foot store.