Ok...hands up, how many of you have at one time dreamed of opening your own store? Lots of you, right? There is something so romantic about working for yourself and seeing a vision through from start to completion. Well, two of my dear friends have done just that. Liz and her husband Clay opened the online vintage store The Arthur just last year and now they have opened a bricks and mortar version at 550 College Street in Toronto.
I'm so inspired by these two. They have poured their heart and soul into this place and it shows. I sat down with Liz last week, on her first day of business and asked her a few questions.
TMHB - Most people probably know that you started your business online but you just recently opened a storefront. Will you keep the online store running?
Liz - Yes, definitely. The online biz has been fun and I think people buy differently online than what they can see/pickup and carry away from the shop. I think they’ll make a good balance.
TMHB - What attracted you to opening your own vintage store? Is this something you have always dreamed of doing?
Liz - This really has been a long dream coming. Ages ago I’d seen the shop Mojo in Montreal and it blew me away that a couple could open a shop of well curated, random products that they just loved. I’d put the idea of owning a shop on the back burner and focused on photography which had been my career choice for the past 7 years. Having kids really made me put everything into a new perspective and I decided to throw caution to the wind and try something new.
TMHB - I'm sure many of my readers would be interested in knowing some of the process you went through in terms of finding a place, getting it ready, setting up shop, etc?
Liz - I barely feel able to give any advice – as I’m such a newbie to the retail world! I spent about 5 months looking for a place. I searched all over without a real estate agent (they're not so helpful if you’re only interested in leasing), cruising neighbourhoods for “For Lease” signs and looking online. I’m so happy that I waited for the right place.
I’ve been preparing/hoarding for a long time so getting ready included finding new product lines that are handmade or reflect qualities of the past. But setting up was a hectic affair. My incredibly talented (in ways very opposite to me) hubby - Clay Stang – designed and created the space with the great talents of carpenter Dawson Campbell . You’ll be seeing Clay’s handy work popping up in the shop soon!
What were the challenges? Anything you wish you had known in advance?
The challenging elements were trying to find resources to find out: Do I need a licence? How should I register my business? Do I need a bookkeeper? Where do I find a cash register? Do I need one? Etc. The learning curve was kind of insane within the last 6 weeks but I think I’m happiest when I’m in a crunch so it worked out okay. And the best thing has been the amazing community of women in retail that I’ve met in the past little while. Alison from Coriander Girl, Micah at Russet & Empire, Karyn at The Workroom and Hollie & Jane at White Elephant have been so supportive and great wealth’s of knowledge. And the Biz Ladies section of Design*Sponge was also super helpful.
Where do you find most of the items in your store?
I cruise estate sales, auctions, church sales, craigslist and flea markets all over Ontario. It’s the best part of the job. I love the hunt.
What are some of the things we can find in The Arthur? Best buys?
Well some of the new lines that I’m excited about are: Shelter - handmade quality backpacks, clutches and wallets made with hand stained/tooled leather. And locally made Yahbags are so insanely good. These totes and purses are all made of repurposed original mail bags, grain sacks, army canvas and french ticking. Things Together create prism shaped papier mache and driftwood mobiles that look beautiful in any room. As for vintage housewares – I’m partial to wool army blankets, old school pull down posters and old typewriters (I have about 10). The shop is perfectly small so you’ll see new items popping up every time you visit.
TMHB - I love all the new lines you've added in - you've got such a good eye. They mix in so well with the vintage finds. You often can't even tell them apart!
TMHB - Any other people who helped you along the way?
I just want to add a super HUGE thank you to Space Camp who did our graphics and branding! Graeme and Blair had the shortest turnaround yet were able to do such an extensive (& INCREDIBLE) branding execution. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have received such care and attention from any other design team.
Thanks Liz and Clay. You've done what so many people only dream of doing. If you live in Toronto, drop by and say hello to Liz. The store is located at 550 College Street in Little Italy. And if you live too far away to make a personal visit don't forget they still have an online store.
If you have any of your own questions for Liz ask away. I'm sure she would be happy to answer them!Image Credits: Clay Stang