Coldstream Games’ Heist is one hyperlocal gift you could grab ahead of the holidays. (Coldstreamgames.ca photo)

Coldstream Games’ Heist is one hyperlocal gift you could grab ahead of the holidays. (Coldstreamgames.ca photo)

Vernon’s guide for Christmas toy shopping locally rather than online

Local businesses need support during the pandemic, and they’ve also got the goods this holiday season

It’s that time of year, in a year like no other: Christmas toy shopping season is here.

In light of the effects of COVID-19 on local businesses, many Vernonites are making a point to get their Christmas shopping done locally.

To that end, here is a guide to help Vernon residents do their Christmas shopping locally this year.

There’s no better place to start than 28th Avenue, where Make My Fun Hobbies and Games has set up shop for the past two years.

The owners — Tawnya and Travis Ferris — aim to bring back retro toys; the hands-on, off-screen stuff that has been succeeded by video games.

They specialize in radio-controlled (RC) cars.

As Tawnya explained, the advent of 3D printing has improved these toys by leaps and bounds in recent years, so much so they can now serve as a tool for teaching kids about vehicles.

“They’ve come a long way, where you now working shocks that are filled with oil and axles and disks and parts… and so many accessories,” she said.

Tawnya said the hottest buy this year is the new Traxxas TRX-4 Sport Crawler, an RC that allows users to upgrade the winch, lights and other parts, and comes with a portal hub, “like a real truck.”

Make My Fun normally has an indoor RC race track and hosts games nights, but those in-store activities have been disrupted by the pandemic. That said, Tawnya believes the pandemic has in some ways been a boon for businesses like hers — ones that specialize in curing boredom.

“I don’t know if we’re just finally on the map or if COVID has helped because we have families who come in and say their Disneyland trip is cancelled so they’d like to buy their kids some RCs to go outside with and play,” Tawnya said.

She says Vernon has plenty of great outdoor areas that are perfect for RC racing.

“There’s so many areas for the rocks and the trains to go out and explore while you’re hiking and use your Crawler.”

READ MORE: Christmas lights tour mapped out by Vernon Realtor

Another business of more than 30 years, Vernon Teach and Learn, has had many customers say they’re making more of an effort to shop locally this year.

“We’ve heard so many customers this past year saying more than ever they’re going to shop local and keep their dollars here in Vernon,” said owner Lynella Henke.

“In the big picture, it’s the local businesses that are giving back to school and charities.”

Henke said the most popular buy this year has been Speks, a toy comprised of small magnetic balls that can be reconfigured into countless creative shapes and structures.

Classic board games like Monopoly, Jenga and newer games like Settlers of Catan have also been flying off the shelves.

The pandemic has led to changes at Teach and Learn, including the addition of a delivery service on its website, which Henke says customers have appreciated, especially those who prefer to avoid brick and mortar stores during the pandemic.

Also in the local board game market is Coldstream Games, a family-owned company that started designing their own in-house board games two years ago, and had their first game release – the Heist – arrive in August this year.

The Heist is a 2-5 person strategy games in which one player is the thief, and the board is a museum with four levels. Other players (museum staff) try to catch the thief as he or she moves invisibly around the board, looking for pieces of art to steal.

To make this game even more local, all character art was designed by Kelowna artist Sam Powell.

“That is something we wanted to make sure we did locally,” said Katherine Fehr, owner of Coldstream Games.

Fehr noted the art was also specifically designed to be diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender and orientation. “We wanted it to be more accessible, so people could say ‘hey look this one looks more like me,’ or ‘I can identify with that character,’” she said.

COVID-19 has made 2020 a difficult year to kick-start the small company, as trade shows and fan conventions have been cancelled.

“With all of those things being cancelled it’s just increasingly more important for us to reach out locally,” Fehr said.

“Online shopping is definitely a deterrent to being able to keep your doors open. When you’re looking at major chains closing you can imagine how that trickles down to a little mom and pop shop.”

Fortunately, the Fehrs’ business trades in products that can be enjoyed when there’s nowhere to be but at home with the family.

“What a perfect thing to be doing while you’re potentially in lockdown at home over the Christmas season, is to get together and play games,” she said. “You can’t substitute that connection that you can make with your family.”

Coldstream Games’ second release, Steamrolled, is expected to arrive Dec. 7 and is available for pre-order online at coldstreamgames.ca.

Other local stores with Christmas toys galore:

Teeter Totter Toys – Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ebenezer’s – Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Boarding House Café – 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

ChristmasGames and Toys