Seal products boutique gets warm welcome

Daniel MacEachern
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Not every business’s grand opening features a Mi’kmaq smudging ceremony, a sealskin ribbon-cutting and the provincial leader of the Opposition agreeing with a cabinet minister.

But NaturaL Boutique on Water Street carries the weight of a provincial industry tied up in Newfoundland’s historical identity — not to mention one that is the target of environmental and anti-animal-cruelty groups the world over.

The boutique — owned by Jennifer and Kerry Shears, who also own the Gros Morne Wildlife Museum and Gift Shop in Rocky Harbour — cut the sealskin ribbon with a traditional ulu Tuesday morning. The shop opened its doors June 7.

Tuesday’s event featured speeches by former fisheries minister Clyde Jackman and Frank Pinhorn, president of the Canadian Sealers’ Association. Both spoke of the province’s sealing heritage and expressed hope that the store — which sells high-end clothing and accessories, especially sealskin — will lead the charge in promoting sealskin products to a global market that has largely rejected them.

Jennifer Shears and her husband are Newfoundland Mi’kmaq, which is why the official opening kicked off with a smudging. She said she’s not worried about sealskin product bans by the United States and the European Union, among others.

“What we’ve found is it’s governments that are potentially against the seal hunt, and not the individuals, so that’s encouraging, because individuals form governments and can sway governments,” she said.

“Apart from that, Newfoundlanders, Canadians are fully on board, from everything we’re seeing. We’ve gotten nothing but great reviews and great comments, so it just bodes well for the future,” said Shears.

Education Minister Jackman attended on behalf of the federal government. Current Fisheries Minister Darin King was supposed to attend, but his duties as deputy house leader kept him at the House of Assembly amidst filibustering over the government’s proposed changes to access to information regulations.

“We’ve shown over the past number of years how important the sealing industry is to this province,” he said. “We continuously have had to battle the outside interests who are condemning our hunt.”

With steps and programs undertaken to ensure the hunt is as humane as possible, said Jackman, and a hiring of a law firm to fight the European Union ban — as well as a $3.6-million loan to a seal-processing plant — the government has proven its commitment to the industry in the province.

Ball said the Liberals support the government’s investment in the sealing industry, and added the store is an important show of strength by the industry.

“No. 1, we see two young entrepreneurs in Newfoundland and Labrador having the confidence to open a business in St. John’s in this case, and a business too on the west coast of Newfoundland. That’s important,” he said. “More than that is to see that they actually believe in the seal industry to the point that they’re willing to look for this business opportunity to advance the seal industry.”

Ball said the province needs to make sure the sealing industry has a successful future. “Not only when you look at the harvest, but when you look at the opportunities in the secondary processing just like you’re seeing here today.”

Pinhorn noted that the industry hunted 70,000 seals last season, almost double its catch of 38,000 the previous season. Next year, he said, they’ve got their sights set on 200,000 to 300,000, which is still far less than the provincial quota of 400,000 seals.

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: European Union, Gros Morne Wildlife Museum, Gift Shop Clyde Jackman and Frank Pinhorn Canadian Sealers

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Water Street, Rocky Harbour United States

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Recent comments

  • Lee Hollett
    January 14, 2014 - 12:49

    Loved reading about your new business, was wondering if you have a website with prices for the seal skin boots. really would love to have a pair.

  • impressed
    November 22, 2012 - 08:24

    i think it's fantastic! Wish you mountains of success! Your products are on my christmas wishlist.

  • elva
    October 06, 2012 - 13:02

    Don not support this. These gentle animals are shot or have their skulls smashed in by sealers. They are then skinned for their fur, often while they are still conscious. These are babies we are talking about. Think about what you are buying.

    • sandra
      February 28, 2013 - 11:02

      Before you make comment you should look up what you are talking about , unless you have been out hunting or live in the area , you cant always believe what you read. There's alto of hunters making a living from this animals, if you are going to stand up for one animal, you should stand up for all of them .Look and see how cows, chicken ,pig are tried, that's what we eat before you go on a ramp page about the seal look in you fridge.

  • twyla
    October 06, 2012 - 12:47

    PLEASE Sealing is an ugly business and should not be supported by anyone. Beyond the fact that the pups are beaten to death, it is a wasteful, barbaric industry with MANY people opposed to it. It is the only hunt that targets the infant of the species. It is disgustingly wasteful as the skinned carcasses are thrown away- if you are going to kill something have the decency and respect to use the whole thing. Also the natural habitat of the seal are shrinking due to climate change- this will result in a drastic decrease in their population. The annual seal hunt only accounts for less than 1% of the economy in Newfoundland. The seal hunt is irresponsible, cruel, and wasteful. Please I urge you to educate yourselves about the seal hunt before committing to support it.

  • citizen
    June 18, 2012 - 08:59

    hey Sean.. i am wealthy, 45, retired, want for nothing, and with 2 homes paid for.. and not from flogging crap to people with more money than brains, but from hard work, in a real and necessary industry, living a common sense, modest life, below my means existence.. And when i buy something, i consider the consequences, unlike most brainless, gaga eyed, dumb ass consumers now roaming our stinky, dirty , oily downtown streets of this one horse town.

  • cath hurwood
    June 16, 2012 - 21:30

    Sealing is sealing and it means the horrendous deaths of animals for something as frivilous as a fur coat. The truth is that many Canadians are against the seal hunt and are not in favour of this tax-base supported nightmare!

  • Paul Blondahl
    June 13, 2012 - 22:17

    Congrats to all . Would love to get the email address. If not then I will visit next time I hit the Rock!!!

  • randy
    June 13, 2012 - 18:57

    Sounds like a great place to check out while we are home for the holidays... looking forward to checking out the goods!

  • Suzanne Dodge
    June 13, 2012 - 15:32

    Some,pretty,amazing comments,Jenn & Kerry......not surprised at all!!!!!!! Just,a long time coming,is all......All the best to you and your staff.........Roy & Sue Dodge......

  • Awesome
    June 13, 2012 - 11:34

    I love this and really wish i could buy some, but i'm sure the prices will be WAY to high, but I really hope they do well!!!!!!!!

  • da bejer
    June 13, 2012 - 09:56

    As a NL'er living in Alberta, congratulations on your store opening. I definitely will be visiting your store next time i visit "da rock". Kudos to you!

  • John David Stanway
    June 13, 2012 - 09:38

    Could one of the commenters in St. John's let me know if they have a website or any other way to order stuff remotely?

  • Tracey Drover
    June 13, 2012 - 09:03

    This is awesome to see! I can't wait to visit Natural Boutique on my next trip to St. John's. Long overdue !!!!

  • Cathy
    June 13, 2012 - 08:53

    Just love your products,got a couple of things for a xmas gift .Can only say what quality products *just love the boots *best thing I ever put on my feet so comfortable and warm ,worth every bit of the money. I am so proud to wear them as a Newfoundlander too, Every time I wear them I get people stop me and ask where did I get them. I hope you do well with your new store.

  • Jennifer Shears, owner of NaturaL boutique
    June 13, 2012 - 08:02

    On behalf of our family and friends, we would like to express our gratitude to everyone who attended our Grand Opening and to those who have been so supportive of this venture. Thank you Daniel and The Telegram team for this lovely article. It's truly amazing to see people of all political stripes come together on a unified front like this. We can't wait to welcome new and familiar faces to our store! Thanks again! The NaturaL boutique team

  • Marie
    June 13, 2012 - 07:26

    I have seen these products and they are the best quality I have ever seen! A beautiful product - good luck with the store!

  • John Smith
    June 13, 2012 - 07:05

    I hope these guys make a go of it, wish them the best of if I could only come up with the 3 grand to buy one of those coats...

  • citizen
    June 13, 2012 - 07:03

    so now can we expect to see similar support and all levels of government, media and broohaha every time some new entrepreneur opens a business in the province .. i am neither a fan or opponent of the seal hunt- but this show of back slapping and politicizing the opening of yet another place for our wealthy minority to do some more conspicuous consumption is embarrassing and offensive.... oh how i miss the st. john's of old when we were all poor and had some good sense..

    • seanoairborne
      June 13, 2012 - 16:49

      Face it, you just don't like wealthy folks?That's your have the opportunity to be wealthy too!You live in a free and capitalistic society.Do you have a Ball and Chain holding you back?If not stop the whining about those who make our system work through creating new ventures that entail the hireing of working folks and the spinoffs in related industries.They are the ones who create wealth for all.Of course,if you want to go back to a time when a good number of people in the city of St.John's used slop buckets and humped water from the local cistern ,which was not a pleasent thing to do since that's where the waste from those slop buckets was dumped,be our guest.Newfoundland has a lot of vacant backwoods land you could move to!Bon Voyage!.....PS I wish the owners of this new business great success!