First potato soap shipment on way to Taiwan, could grow to 100,000 bars

June 19, 2018 marked a first for PEI. The first shipment of 4,500 bars of Island Potato Soap is heading to Taiwan. The Leezen Group in Taiwan will be distributing Island Potato Soap to its 132 outlets. The soap, grown by Island farmers, is unique because it is made with certified organic potato juice.
If the soap catches on, the Taiwan market could eventually grow to over 100,000 bars of soap annually. This would be a great boost for rural employment here on PEI since all the employees of White Gable at Hope River live on the North Shore.


Stanley Bridge Centre hosts exciting new business venture, opening June 16

by Jim Brown

Pieter Ijsselstein has big plans for the Stanley Bridge Centre, which he has leased for the summer months and will be open for business on June 16.

The co-owner of White Gables at Hope River, Mr Ijsselstein recently returned from a taping of Dragon’s Den to pitch his potato soap themed products.

He says the new Stanley Bridge Centre-based retail sales outlet (bearing the iconic White Gables name) will offer Island landscape paintings, pottery, weavings, and, of course, his burgeoning lines of Island Potato Soap and Skin Cream made with Potato Juice and Island Oils.

He also plans to have two Island market days, which will feature products from several other vendors, on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout July and August.

It’s an exciting time for Pieter and Geraldine who have seen their certified organic potato soap products, including skin creams, sold in 225 locations throughout the Maritimes. All told, they have created more than 40 varieties of potato soap (including beer soap) and more are under development including a sunscreen made with Potato Juice.

“A lot of people in the US are ordering online and there are retail outlets in Ontario, BC. Maine, even the Yukon,” says Pieter

Pieter also has an order of 4,500 bars of soap from the Leezen connection in Taiwan, which are to be shipped out before the end of June.

The shipment involves four varieties of soap – Certified Organic Coffee, Anne’s Baby Soap (unscented), Lavender essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil soaps.

Right now, Pieter is waiting to hear from Dragon’s Den’s producers when his segment will air in the upcoming new season. So until then, everything is under wraps.

But even without news from Dragon’s Den, his lines of potato soap and skin cream sales are creating a lot of interest.

He estimates he will produce anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 bars of soap this year. Sales have doubled this year, he said.

Among his 40 varieties of certified organic soaps are such popular brands as Lucy Maud Sweet Pea Soap and Sea Kelp Soaps, as well as eight Lighthouse soaps featuring beautiful illustrations (by Geraldine, his wife) of lighthouses including PEI’s famed West Point Lighthouse and the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse from Nova Scotia.

All the work is done at his home-business just around the corner in Hope River, though the bulk of his certified organic potato purchases come from various Island growers.
His soap-based skin creams are sold in 100 ml pump bottles, which are great for tourists who can easily take it in their carry-on luggage if they are flying.
We are all looking forward to another great summer at the Stanley Bridge Centre!


Is this brand of potato soap destined for the White House?

by Jim Brown

Tireless Island entrepreneur Pieter Ijsselstein has created more than 40 varieties of certified organic potato soap, which he is selling in 225 locations across the Maritimes, and more recently, Taiwan. He’s been very creative with his soaps, but one brand in particular may raise a few eyebrows, since he’s planning to send a few bars to President Donald Trump.

The White Gables of Hope River owner said the inspiration for his latest brand, dubbed “Sin Washing Soap”, came from a former United Church, decommissioned years ago and renamed the Stanley Bridge Centre.

It’s a building he is leasing this summer to launch a new craft and farmer’s market-themed venture, which was to open June 16.

Why is he naming it Sin Washing soap?

“It’s got Island sea sand for extra scrub,” said Mr Ijsselstein – something needed for a really deep cleansing job.

And why is he planning to send some bars to the president of the United States?

“There’s a perception out there that Trump has a lot of sins,” he said.


Bringing down the house, SBC hosts first concert of the season

Jim Brown photos

The Stanley Bridge Centre (SBC) presented a rousing night of music June 10 at the SBC in Stanley Bridge. Featured performers were Gertie and Bill Campbell, Lou and Elmer Doiron, Trudy Hughes, Mary Campbell, Jason Campbell and Fenton MacSwain. Money from the concert will go towards needed renovations at the SBC.

Connie Morrison, on the Stanley Bridge Memorial Society’s board of directors, hoists a beautiful painting created by acclaimed Margate artist Karen Slater. Tickets will be sold on the painting through the summer to help finance renovations.



Care package going to White House

Jim Brown, editor of the Stanley Bridge Centre website, recently visited the world famous PEI Preserve Company in New Glasgow to pick a sampler of jams to send President Donald Trump and his two top advisers on trade and the economy, Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro. Mr Brown and owner Bruce MacNaughton (in photo) were hoping the preserves would help turn down the heat on a bitter trade dispute which has seen crushing tariffs and sharp words levied against Canada. Mr Brown is challenging other Canadians to send a flood of tasty treats to the White House. Mr MacNaughton generously donated the preserves.
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Jim Brown photos


Food truck’s arrival shows summer is almost here

Photos by Jim Brown

New London area residents won’t have to go far to find delicious fare this spring.

Summerside entrepreneur Viva Dagher took her food truck business, Viva La Crepe, to the Village Pottery parking lot on the Victoria Day weekend, at Village Pottery’s invitation.

Dagher, in business for four years, says she usually spends her summer at Spinnakers Landing. Dagher plans to spend a couple of weeks or so in her New London location, before heading back to Summerside where she is booked for the season.

So if you want to try her food, you better not wait too long since she expects to have her truck back in Summerside before mid-June.

What does she offer on her menu?

“Mostly crepes, and I have traditional meals such as burgers and fries and fish and chips, but I have a little bit of Mediterranean food.”

It’s probably a safe bet to say she will be very busy while she is in New London.


Second volume of Minding the House on its way to Ottawa

Story and photos by Jim Brown

Marion Murphy had something important to drop off at Malpeque MP Wayne Easter’s Hunter River office on May 24.

It was the Second Volume of Minding the House, a Biographical Guide to Prince Edward Island MLAs (1993-2017). The book contains biographical information on all current members, including the recently elected Green Party MLA Hannah Bell. It picks up right where Volume 1 of the book ended (1873-1993). The book will also be delivered to libraries, government offices and schools across PEI and is available for sale at $20. Murphy, a former PEI MLA and one of several Islanders responsible for the book’s printing, asked Easter and his staff to make sure copies got to Island MPs and Senators in Ottawa.

On May 16, the second volume of “Minding the House” was launched by Francis (Buck) Watts, speaker of the Legislative Assembly of P.E.I., and George Webster, chairman of the Association of Former Members of the Legislative Assembly of P.E.I.

Watts stated, “This publication and biographical guide of members past (1993-2017) compliments the previous one that was published in 2002, ‘Minding the House, A Biographical Guide to Prince Edward Island Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs),1873-1993.’ The original publication was a project supported by the Association of Former Members of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island and co-published by Acorn Press, a local Island company.”
The publication serves as a reference guide and a tangible reminder of the service of those elected Island leaders who achieved the right to sit in the Legislative Assembly.

For more information on the publication or to purchase “Minding the House, A Biographical Guide to Prince Edward Island MLAs (Volume II) 1993-2017,” contact the Office of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly at (902) 368-4310. Purchase price is $20 including taxes.


Refugee family deeply grateful to Kensington, was ready to knock on every door to say thank you

Story and photos by Jim Brown

Maldaa and Mohammed faced a long line up of wellwishers at a special dinner on May 12 to show their deep appreciation to the community for all the help they received settling in Kensington.

It was their chance for a Syrian refugee family to say a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to an entire community for accepting them into their homes and into their hearts.

Mohammed Albrzawi and his wife Maldaa Al Nahas Alhomsi flashed beaming smiles as they greeted dozens of people at the Kensington United Church Saturday, May 12. The couple special guests at a potluck meal sponsored by KARSI – The Kensington and Area Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (KARSI). They were joined by their two children, Hala and Kenan, nine and six years respectively.

The family had arrived on April 19, just in time to experience their first snow.

More than $38,000 was raised by KARSI to sponsor the family in Kensington, $8,000 more than the recommended amount, said Patricia Bennett, co-chair of KARSI with Carolyn Francis.

“They have a place to live and Mohammed has a part-time job in Summerside, working in a florist shop,” said Patricia.

“They are very anxious to thank the community. Because they realize it wasn’t just the community of Kensington, but the whole area who bought raffle tickets, who donated furniture and (prepared the) house.”

Mohammed owned a flower shop in Syria before the horror and devastation of war turned them into refugees. His wife was an accountant. They had lived in Damascus before the war and then found themselves in Istanbul Turkey with other refugees.

The transition to life in Kensington has been seamless.

“It was more than we expected,” said Mohammed, who had begun his second day of work at the flower shop.

“Everyone is so kind to us,” said Maldaa.

“The children are in school. They love the school and they love their teachers. The principal, the staff and the school are all very helpful. Everyone has been working hard to make the kids love the school. They’ve done a great job. They made it seem as if they are in that school for a long time,” said Mohammed.

The couple said they were amazed at how easily they able to find a rented house and move in, thanks to the community and KARSI.

“When we arrived on our first week it snowed, and it was our kids wish. The kids were playing in the snow,” said Mohammed.

“Our sponsors arranged this dinner to help us say thank you to the residents of Kensington and the surrounding area,” said Mohammed.

“We told our sponsors if we don’t meet everyone and say thank you we’re going to knock on every house door just to say thank you,” he said.

“Everybody here is so friendly and so helpful, they make us feel like we are home,” said Maldaa.

“We were worried once we arrived in Kensington we would have to worry about the house and the furniture, but when we arrived everything was set up for us. That was one of the main reasons that I was able to find a job that quick,” said her husband.

“When we moved from Syria to Istanbul it took us about four to five months to find the right house and furniture. All of this time was saved by our sponsors. We are so grateful to our sponsors, they did a great job.”

Maldaa and Mohammed greet Malpeque Liberal MP Wayne Easter.

Maldaa and Mohammed greet Carol Evans. Carol donated a handmade quilt to KARSI, which was sold in a raffle that raised $400 towards the family’s sponsorship.


Newly reopened Margate motel fully booked with local tenants, foreign workers

Story and photos by Jim Brown

The newly renovated Margate Apartments building

Austin Roberts is the owner of a newly renovated motel in Margate along Highway 6. He says it didn’t take him long to fill every one of its seven units with long term tenants.

“We’re actually quite excited about that property. It was a bit of an eyesore (before),” he acknowledged.

Not any more.

The Margate Apartments building had been sitting idle for quite some time, before he bought it in the fall and shortly afterwards began its remarkable transformation.

“We had a need for accommodations – we had some foreign workers working with us,” said Roberts.

So he bought a strip motel that was slowly deteriorating, and began working on it from top to bottom for several months through the fall and winter, using a local contractor.

The motel consists of six two bedroom units and one one-bedroom unit.

“Kensington is such a great area for business (and) we knew we would have no problem renting it,” said Roberts, adding there’s a waiting list.

“We took three units for foreign workers and four units were left over” for other renters.

“We probably could have rented them at least three times over,” he said.

Roberts had no problem finding tenants. In fact, he didn’t even have to advertise.

“People would search us out, they’d see the work was getting done and they would find out who we were and come up to the office. They’d get hold of us through neighbors and friends.”

Roberts estimates the renos have cost in the range of $350,000 to $370,000 and though the gleaming building looks done, he says there is still some work to finish.

“We’ve got painting to do on the doors, and we’ve got some design work going between doors to give each (room) privacy,” he said.

There’s also landscaping that needs to be done behind the apartments to draw water away from the building.

His foreign worker complement includes young employees from India.

All told, 10 foreign workers are employed in Roberts’ businesses in New Annan and Kensington.

The units were available for renters on April 15.