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Inuksuit, pins, hockey jerseys hot selling items

Business booming at shops selling Olympic souvenirs, Canadiana



Scott Grieve usually makes about 700 candied apples a week at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory but this isn't a typical Whistler week.

Right now his candied apple cauldron is churning out hundreds of mouth-watering treats a day, roughly 2,000 a week.

The hot sellers, of course, are the apples decorated with maple leafs and inuksuit (the plural of inukshuk) and at the beginning of the week he was completely sold out of Olympic chocolate medals. He plans on making more as soon as he gets the chance.

"People want to be a part of it and what better way to be a part of it than by eating it," he said, behind his big candied apple cauldron.

Elsewhere in the village, Kevin Sopp at Sportstop is watching Team Canada jerseys and T-shirts fly off the shelves. He's sold more than 500 jerseys this month in the four Whistler stores.

"Anything that they can get that's hockey-related has been super popular," he said.

"Really, the only group that's not buying them is the Americans.

"Canada is hockey and hockey is Canada. Regardless of the outcome of the score or the tournament, everyone puts Canada with hockey. When in Canada... buy something hockey-related."

If it's not hockey, then it's inuksuit.

Over at the family-owned Trading Post at Whistler, Grayson Serface had just one locally-made inukshuk left on his shelf, crafted from local rocks. He's sold a few hundred of them already and could have sold a few hundred more, if he had them. The inuksuit he has left are not locally-made but that's not slowing business any.

"People buy five, six, eight at a time," he said.

In the first week of the Olympic Games, shoppers were only looking for Olympic-related stuff. That's why he's had to place three orders to his Olympic suppliers for more toques. But now other things are starting to move too, like fun Whistler skiing T-shirts.

"We knew that Olympic stuff was going to be the big ticket because that's what people are here for, but we're starting to see that other things are moving now," he said.

"We found out really quickly what the hot items were."

Surprisingly, the RCMP Mountie souvenirs are not moving, no matter where he displays them in the store.

"We're not selling as much as we thought we would given the presence that they have in red serge at the ceremonies and things like that," said Serface.

The store is open 16 hours a day from 8 a.m. to midnight and business is booming. Sometimes it's so busy it's hard to get inside.

"It's what we were hoping for but not what we were expecting," he said, adding that they kept their expectations low to avoid disappointment.

It's hardly disappointing when business is three times busier than on a busy Christmas week, like at Carlbergs Gift Shop.

Charmaigne Issa, general manager of the Carlbergs properties, said it didn't start out that way. But a few days into the Games brought high traffic into the souvenir store.

Ninety to 95 per cent of the sales there are Olympic merchandise.

"Pins are the hot seller," she said. "We're almost sold out right now."

She said she was surprised the Olympic clothing line didn't sell as well at her store,

"It's not as hot as pins or gadgety stuff."

Customers range, she said, from locals to tourists, police officers to journalists, volunteers to athletes.

"Everybody who is in Whistler is shopping," she said.

That's what Seattle resident Amy Grice was doing while her husband, son and father-in-law were watching the ski jumping at Whistler Olympic Park this week.

Her bags were filled with things like mini hockey sticks, locally made ornaments with inuksuit and an Olympic hockey jersey with a large inukshuk.

She was on the hunt for more T-shirts and small things to give to friends and family.

When asked about the selection in town, Grice said:

"Everything's pretty much the same stuff. The prices are different, which is kind of odd. Luckily I had a couple of hours free to just walk and see what everybody had first and now I'm going back and hitting everybody that had them on sale."



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