A downtown Vernon textile shop has become a safe space for all.
Sally Snarf didn’t know Furhouse was becoming a safe space for the LGBTQ2S+ community until drag performer Toddy of 'Call Me Mother' told everyone to check out the "new queer hangout."
Toddy and two-spirit drag star Ella Lamoureux, also a Call Me Mother contestant and House Mother at Friends of Dorothy’s in Kelowna, helped Snarf realize the vision for Furhouse.
"I didn't foresee I was creating a queer space until Toddy told everyone to check out Furhouse. I thought I just had a sewing shop," Snarf says. "There are so many queer people who are ready to be loved and seen and take up space and not apologize."
Snarf worked with Community Futures North Okanagan to bring the idea to life.
With the local queer community, Snarf began planning Vernon’s Pride Week set for Aug. 8-14 and Rebellious Unicorns hosted its Fruit Cake Drag and Dance Party at Furhouse on June 4.
"I've never seen any kind of magic like that in Vernon. People danced until 1 a.m. and it was so extraordinary to see queer people feeling comfortable in this space," says Snarf. "While it's a textile shop, it’s also become this other thing I didn't anticipate. Furhouse has become a recipe for healing in the community. It’s a space where people can just gather and be."
After losing a job as a tattoo artist in Vancouver during the pandemic, Snarf started an online store selling handmade jewelry, prints and accessories and returned to the Okanagan.
"Furhouse happened because of challenges I didn't expect," Snarf recalls. "It was really hard for me. I needed a studio to thrive. I needed a place to create."
For the first 13 weeks of a self-employment program, Snarf worked with Community Futures to develop a business plan before opening the doors in January.
"Furhouse made no sense to anybody for a long time. It was so chaotic and a direct representation of my struggle with mental health and finding a place for my creativity within the community," Snarf says. "Now, when people see the bright colours and queer people see the rainbows, they feel good here. It's a space for everyone no matter where they come from."
With supplies, classes, restoration services and more, the retail aspect of the business has grown and evolved over time.
"People still say they don't get it, but in a positive way," says Snarf smiles.