But it is the stories of objects and people that make this boutique precious to the community.
Nearly everything is in shades of white or pink and sparkles in a little room lined with windows at the base of The Pink Church‘s steeple. There are sequined handbags, lace gloves and vintage wedding gowns on display. Tulle veils hang from the walls and dainty antique vanity sets and perfume bottles are sprinkled about the surfaces. It is one section of The Pink Church that is devoted to one clear theme – a soft, light and romantic traditional femininity – but elsewhere in the vintage boutique milk glass items are similarly organized together in neat white rows, vintage books remain with the other vintage books and vintage clothing hangs with other vintage clothing.
There is a neatness to the boutique that isn’t always common in other vintage or antique shops. Contrasting with the creaky floorboards, shadows and cool drafts of a church built in the 19th century, The Pink Church boutique is tastefully curated with thoughtful pops of colour and textures. Well-maintained merchandising displays sit atop furniture that is also for sale.
This Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick church-turned-vintage-shop offers more than just its selection of mid-century furs and sequined handbags, neatly ordered curios sitting atop antique furniture, 19th century boy scout gear, costume jewelry ready for a Mad Men theme party, or elaborate and antique hats. What keeps customers coming back after a first, perhaps impromptu, encounter is the warm and friendly customer service from Pink Church business partners Darlene Worth and Alison Elias.
Going to The Pink Church is like shopping with friends. The shopkeepers joke that at 4 p.m. every day the wine bottle comes out. (“Sometimes earlier.”) There are days, Worth says, where she wears a bridal veil while working, telling customers she is getting married to herself.
To Worth and Elias, running this vintage shop is about more than just sales and the bottom line. There are stories that exist around the items they sell at The Pink Church and there are even stories created with the customers who visit. These stories are what keep them doing what they do, Elias says.
Have you met the Queen of Deviled Eggs?
For instance, when I arrived to The Pink Church last Saturday just after noon, I witnessed a happy customer and her friend returning to share one of these stories. A woman who had previously purchased a large, vintage Tupperware container for a specific purpose had come back to show the shopkeepers its uses.
“Have you met the Queen of Deviled Eggs?” Worth asked me. I had to admit I had not. But we were quickly introduced.
Worth and Elias explained that a Pink Church customer, Mae Leblanc, had told them when she bought the tray that she was known by all who knew her for her deviled eggs – that she was “The Queen of Deviled Eggs.”
She needed this low-edged, rectangular vintage Tupperware so that she could display her deviled eggs in neat rows while serving. It was like a serving tray or platter, but with a lid for transportation.
She had returned that day to “prove” to Worth and Elias that she was, indeed, the Queen of Deviled Eggs. With her, she had brought a friend, Elizabeth Beckett, and the treats she was known for. When they tasted her eggs, it was unanimous – she was declared queen.
They offered one to me and my husband, as well as to other customers in store that afternoon. While I cannot eat eggs, my husband indulged. He confirmed what had already been established: they were exceptional deviled eggs and she had indeed been rightfully crowned.
Tourism season at the boutique
The Pink Church is known to stop traffic along Route 114. Curious passersby driving along the coast of the Bay of Fundy will often pull into the driveway when they see the old white church with its eclectic bubblegum pink and fuchsia entrance and trim at the base of the towering steeple. The big pink sign at the edge of the yard helps.
The Pink Church draws on the New Brunswick tourism season, where visitors from all over will flock to the area from spring to fall, heading to major East Coast tourist attractions like Hopewell Rocks or the Fundy Trail. Since it would be so expensive to heat the church during winter and tourist numbers dwindle, Worth closes the shop when it starts getting colder. This year, tourism to the area may be a bit different, but Worth says she is counting on New Brunswick residents – those already within the province as borders remain closed – to make up the bulk of The Pink Church’s traffic.
She is no stranger to New Brunswick’s tourism industry. Worth bought the church from its previous owner – an auctioneer – about seven years ago because of her own employment history working in tourist shopping. She had worked at the Hopewell Rocks gift shop when she started thinking about ways to tap into the tourist traffic on her own. Originally, before recruiting Elias, The Pink Church was run just by Worth, and was known as Alter Girl – a play on words for “altar girl” as it is housed in a church and because she would alter or restore some furniture items.
Since taking over the church, Worth painted the entrance frame and door, as well as the steeple base’s bay window frames, two shades of pink. Worth says she was inspired by stories of other churches around the world painted in shades of pink, that draw in crowds of tourists. She wanted the church to be seen from the street and to have people stop to take photos, peer in and explore.
Additionally, Worth has also started repurposing a shed on the property into an art studio and holiday-themed collection. She also recently purchased the house next door to live in. Now, her cats get to traipse through both properties and spend days inside the boutique interacting with customers as they please.
My own shopping experience
Some items of interest that caught my eye at The Pink Church include: many pewter or pearly mirror and brush sets, an antique record player built into a cabinet, little Brownies blouses for children, several mid-century style dresses and nightgowns in bright or pastel colours, a 70s era leather jacket with fur collar, Avon perfumes, dozens of powder compacts, a glorious old hat box and quite lovely suitcases.
Over two recent trips to The Pink Church, I bought: a hot peach-coloured 60s chiffon nightgown, a coral summer maxi dress, some old postcards, a set of little milk glass prep bowls, a milk glass candy dish, a red velvet Mele jewelry box and – my favourite – a beautiful table-like cabinet to serve as a vanity/cocktail bar in our living room. They were all very reasonably priced and I would say some were downright steals.
The jewelry box is in perfect used condition and was only $7. I have been looking for a better place to store my earrings and smaller pieces of jewelry than in the actual clam shell I have been using to hold my other larger jewelry pieces. So, it was a perfect find for me at a great price.
This majestic 11-inch tall milk glass candy jar is now our living room Swedish Berries dispenser. A candy holder had been one of our decor ideas for a while. At just around $20, it is both magical looking and allows me to decorate with jube-jubes and eat jube-jubes at a whim.
Finally, the table was just around $120. We had been looking on various furniture store websites for months to find the right table or cabinet that could serve as a hybrid vanity and cocktail bar. All other options we had seen would either be too masculine, too feminine, too tall, too shelfy, too vanity-like, too bar-like, too dark for our living room’s colour palette or just plain too expensive.
What luck it was that we found at The Pink Church this mid-century white-painted little wood cabinet with a top that can extend long enough to serve both purposes we envisioned. And for just over $100! Even better, we didn’t have to pay for delivery because with the upper extensions folded downward and the wheels taken off the legs, it fit into our hatchback Ford Fiesta with space to spare.
Unlike the Queen of Deviled Eggs, it wouldn’t be easy to bring back my cabinet to share with Worth and Elias how I am putting to use these treasures they helped me find. But I can tell them my story and show them the photos. And I can return to The Pink Church when I want to treasure hunt, or discover histories, or support local, or see church cats, or chat with shopkeepers. And you can too! Next time, however, I might plan it a bit closer to the 4 p.m. wine o’clock hour.
All photo credits: Courtney Edgar.