Grace Hicks is one of Tourism Winnipeg’s Business Development Managers. She was born and raised in Italy until she was 10. She is a wife and mom of two girls. She loves spending time with her family and friends, especially around the table enjoying a good home-cooked meal. Recently, she started getting her kicks at kickboxing classes. If you are a Canadian association or a third-party meeting planner, Grace is whom you want to call. She also specializes in agribusiness and life sciences/science business events.
Winnipeg has a fast-growing local artisan community, with many local shops, pop-up sales and markets throughout the city, where are some of your favourite places to shop?
We are so lucky to have so many diverse, unique shopping destinations in our city.
One of my top go-to shops for items by local artisans is The Forks Trading Company, located on the second level of The Forks Market. You can find something to tick off gifts off any wish list – they have everything from housewares to jewellery to books and more. You’ll feel good too knowing that you’re supporting local. In a similar vein, Made Here For You is a gorgeous shop in the Richardson Concourse under the Fairmont Winnipeg and our famous Portage and Main intersection. They feature 90 local makers and artisans, carrying everything from soap to earrings to art and men’s shaving supplies, with a portion of the proceeds raised going toward children’s charities in Manitoba. No matter the keepsake, there is a compelling story behind each piece.
Winnipeg’s character neighbourhoods are hot spots for independent shops and boutiques. A must-visit is the historic Exchange District to check out the studio of local designer Lennard Taylor for his distinctive, contemporary women’s fashions, and Tiny Feast – an adorable stationery store chock full of design-forward household items and cool Winnipeg prints – the perfect souvenir! You’ll love Anne Mulaire’s clothing created by local Indigenous designer Andréanne Mulaire Dandeneau. She designed a line of heritage-inspired and zero waste collections that you can shop at her storefront in South Osborne.
For distinct handmade gifts by Manitoba artists, definitely check out the Museum Shop at Manitoba Museum and the Gallery Shop at Winnipeg Art Gallery. Proceeds from these stores go back into these top Winnipeg artists!
Do you have any advice for meeting planners sourcing gifts for their events in Winnipeg?
To make an impact, look for smaller, locally made items that travel well. We know travelers are flying with carry-ons only, so avoid breakable items and liquids if you can, and seek out things that are easy to pack and light. Think locally made travel candles in metal tins, artisan chocolates that can be consumed before a flight, or items like tote bags, tea towels and socks with graphics that represent a destination.
Are there any trends in gift giving that you’re seeing with meetings & conventions?
We’re noticing a trend that people really want to give gifts with meaning – whether it’s to speakers, clients, delegates or VIPs – that are local and ethnically sourced. They’re looking for gifts that stay true to the event destination and tell a story.
What are a few of your favourite items to gift clients and visitors to Winnipeg?
My #1 pick is this metal mug of Winnipeg that you can purchase at The Forks Trading Co. It doesn’t break and I love the Winnipeg artwork!
For women, I love recommending SOL Designs purses for a socially and environmentally conscious gift. Designed by a Manitoban, these playful purses are made out of lumber and upcycled vinyl flooring, plus they come in different sizes. On top of that, SOL Designs partners with Smile/Epic St-Malo, creating employment for adults living with intellectual disabilities. You can find the purses at The Forks Trading Co., the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Boutique or in the artisan market at Winnipeg Folk Festival.
For men, Winnipeg-made Charlie’s Charmed wooden bowties and cufflinks are so unique and easy to pack. Not only is it a type of fashion that never goes out of style or use, the price point is affordable too, making it an attractive gift.
Finally yet importantly, you can’t go wrong with local tea and coffee. Cornelia Bean is a local tea and coffee shop on Academy Road – the organic Manitoba Rooibos is a great caffeine-free option for gifting. Sheepdog Coffee Co. roasts coffee beans in Manitoba and clients have raved about their Recharge blend. Pair these with my #1 pick and you have a perfectly themed Winnipeg welcome package!
Where can industry professionals expect to see you representing Team Winnipeg in the near future?
I’m looking forward to celebrating the season at the CSAE Trillium Holiday Dinner in Toronto on December 2. I’ll also be at Tête-à-Tête (January 29) and MPI Charity Auction & Dinner (January 30) in Ottawa.