introducing...

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

hello! neighbor - clay & liz

I am super excited about this month's edition of Hello! Neighbour. First, because this house is on the same street as the Marion house and second because this home is full of so many amazing vintage finds that you don't know where to look first. Almost every item in Clay and Liz's home has a different story to tell. Ask about the dining room and you will hear how Clay made the light fixture and that the vintage suitcases were free from Craigslist. In the living room, their is a first edition copy of J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories on the mantlepiece. The front porch features a table made from an old director's chair and fridge racks that Clay cobbled together after watching too many episodes of the Junk Brothers. Even one of the children's rooms boasts a vintage E.T. TV tray that Liz's found at a garage sale. Pretty soon, we will all be able to benefit from Liz's keen eye for vintage finds when she opens her new online store, The Arthur. The store will feature unusual and hard to find vintage items that she has collected for years. Stay tuned here in the coming weeks for details.

Enjoy the tour!

Names:

Liz Ikiriko & Clay Stang

Occupations: Liz - Photo Editor/Toronto Life Magazine

Clay - Photographer

How long have you lived in your home?

3.5 years

Any animals, kids?

Yup! 1 Dog – Gracie and 2 Kids – Otis & Esmé

What is your favorite room? Liz: The Living Room – from every vantage point I find something new I like about it. It’s cozy and I really love how it’s a perfect blend of our styles. Clay tends to be a bit more modern and streamlined than I am but it all comes together in the living room. We got the Sai Baba bust on the mantlepiece from a GREAT garage sale. There is also a JD Salinger collection on the mantle (1st edition Nine Stories) between thrift store owl bookends.

I also love the tv room...we’re pretty lucky with the amount of space we have. So we have a tv room upstairs. I love this room with its non-working fireplace and big bay window. We reupholstered the George Mulhauser plycraft chair that I found at a garage sale. We traded photography for the hanging light from Kate at In Abstracto and the couch was our biggest purchase so far, from Pavillion. My fave item in tv room is the Breathless (a Bout de Souffle) poster I found at a shop on Queen East (above Mulhauser chair)

Clay: The Bathroom - it feels like the perfect blend of old and new. It was the beginning of our many renos, before we moved in. I learned a lot during the process.

Liz: Clay and I have found the perfect way to work together. He does the big major transformation reno stuff and I come in and do the details.The only original element from the bathroom is the medicine cabinet. Though, I have to say our taste has definitely come together over the years. The bathroom really seems like it’s a perfect mix of us. Simple, modern but with vintage found details.

What is your favorite object/thing/moment in your home? Liz: Tom Waits photo by Dan Winters (best birthday/Christmas gift from the hubby. EVER) & napping with Esmé on our new back deck (built by the hubby!).

Clay: Tom Waits photo by Dan Winters and the afternoon light coming down our 3rd floor stairwell.

What are your future plans for the home? Finishing kitchen, painting/adding some colour character (we have boring white walls everywhere) and we’d love to finish off all the little details in our house – sprucing up windowsills, baseboards, adding quarter round, etc.

Anything you would change? Wish we had a 2nd bathroom with a lovely clawfoot tub. I dream of it on a daily basis...

Best thing about living in Parkdale? We have amazing neighbours. Seems like we live in pleasantville with all their loveliness. And it’s great being so connected to the city center without feeling like we’re in the midst of the hustlebustle. Also, 90% of our friends live within walking distance and since we have no family in the city – that is a super bonus. Our friends are our family so it’s nice to be so close.

What original feature(s) of your home will you never get rid of? Our 2 fireplaces (though, it’d be nice if they worked), all the ceiling medallions and the original turn-of-the-century solid wood doors.

Links, acknowledgments

All photographs by Kristin Sjaarda for The Marion House book except photo of Tom Waits by Clay Stang.

Dining Room

- big photo – Clay took in NYC

- portrait by Simon Willms

- wood block print from Smash

- bowling floor console by Clay!

- table from Craigslist, chairs from Bungalow

- light fixture by Clay!

- suitcases – free Craigslist

- Stool – Liz’s 1st reupolstery project

Hallway

- theatre chairs from Aberfoyle Market

- antlers Clay painted

- buddha from friends

- illustration on wood block commissioned by my close friend on my 30th birthday, by Leeay Aikawa, it’s a portrait of me when I was 3.

Back Porch

- Patio chairs – free on street

- Patio table – from Black Pug

Front Porch – Clay redid our porch in the spring and its made such a difference. I love sitting out there on a rainy morning with coffee. The sideboard was in the house when we took possession and where I store my gardening tools. Think I’ll switch out glass in the sideboard doors and replace with chicken wire...

Patio doors are Pollard Windows and Doors