Handsome Blog / Shopkeeper Interviews

Shopkeeper Interview: Scott Meleskie of Clark Street Mercantile

Montréal is one of the best cities in the world, and whenever we're there, we spend as much time in Mile End and The Plateau as possible. In those streets you'll find community, history, entertainment, and Scott Meleskie of Clark Street Mercantile. We love all our retailers but CSM is a special place for us because of our relationship with the city, and with Scott, but also because he started the same year we did. He is so meticulous with his shop and its brand mix that it's worth a visit just to see the layout on that particular day. When you do pop in, give yourself a good amount of time to take it all in (and say hi for us).
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Scott Meleskie: Born and raised in Montreal, save a few years spent in Edmonton and Winnipeg. I grew up playing basketball, skateboarding and playing music. Professionally I worked in advertising for some years before opening up the shop.
Clark Street Mercantile
How do you take your tea or coffee?
SM: Coffee only, black.
Fairmount of St.Viateur Bagels? (We know you have your vicinity to worry about.)
SM: I’ve always been a Fairmount Bagel guy, even before they were my neighbours! So that’s an easy answer. There’s nothing better than scooping some Liberty cream cheese with a warm, fresh Fairmount bagel.
When did you know that you were going to take the jump and open your first store? Scary or thrilling?
SM: I think most people will tell you it’s a little bit of both! Of course you have to enjoy the thrill of creating something from scratch, but the uncertainty around not knowing whether or not your vision will play out as you expect it to can be stressful at times. I certainly didn’t plan on opening the store when I did, but the pieces sort of just came together all at once and I just had to jump in.
How long did it take you to plan and launch, and when was opening day?
SM: I quit my “day job” in advertising in December 2012, with the idea of freelancing for a bit. But things kind of skipped a few steps and I was signing a commercial lease in February a few months later. I then got to work on everything you need to do to start a brand & open a store… from branding to inventory. Definitely a very short timeline!  But luckily I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do in my head already. We opened our doors at the end of June 2013. 
Montreal Clark Street Mercantile
It’s a great name for the shop, had you decided before you found the space that you would match the name structure to whatever street you ended up on?
SM: No not at all, as I really wasn’t at all planing on opening up shop at the time we found the space. I was really inspired by the idea of opening a shop with a local neighbourhood general store feel. So the name is a reflection on that philosophy. I also liked the origins and definition of the word “Mercantile”, which as it happened means the exact same thing in english as it does french, a very important detail being from a french-speaking city.
How did you choose the location? How do you like the area?
SM: The location kind of chose itself, we happened to be walking by the space that would become the shop one day by accident, it had just been vacated the day before and we jumped on it. When I envisioned the shop, I couldn’t imagine it in any other area of the city. The Mile End is an amazing neighbourhood to live in, to work in, or to visit… It has a certain vibe to it that you can’t find anywhere else. There are so many great independent shops, world class restaurants and interesting people in our vicinity, it’s truly inspiring. There are shops popping up every day, just as there are some places celebrating 85 years in business. It’s a great blend of old and new.
Clark Street Mercantile
What’s one thing that you’ve learned, and that’s really surprised you since opening?
SM: One of the many things that surprised me was the unpredictability of retail. From one day to the next, from one year to the next, you never know what to expect! You can certainly work to put yourself in a good position, but there is nothing certain about anything. It’s definitely exciting though!   
Family: Is it challenging to balance entrepreneurship and family, or do they pair well?
SM: Having a supportive partner is key. Starting something is demanding: it’s going to take a lot of your time, it’s going to be stressful. Luckily for me I had a very helpful & understanding wife! I’ve also just become a father not too long ago. It can sometimes be a challenge, but I make it a priority to spend as much time with my son as possible. 
Scott Meleskie
You’ve got such a great product mix, how do you decide what to carry?
SM: I first try to look at the history behind the brand/product. That’s a very important factor to us, not only do we have to believe in the products we sell, but we want to get a better understanding of what and who is behind each brand. I then make sure it fits with the product mix we already have in store, our overall product offering is just as important as the individual products we carry. 
What are some of your favourite stores or operations out there?
SM: A lot of our brands have great retail operations, from YMC, to Nepenthes, to Loreak Mendian, to La Paz, to 18 Waits. There are also a ton of great shops & restaurants in the Mile End we adore, Lawrence, Lowell, Boutique Archive, Wilensky’s, Kem Coba, Drogheria Fine, to name a few…  
Retail is changing all the time, what would be your advice to someone who was thinking about opening a retail store from the beginning?
SM: It has to be something you are passionate about, something you enjoy doing. This “store” will become a part of your life, so you have to be doing it for the right reasons or you won’t last long. Do your homework, put in the work, and be prepared to roll with the punches.
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Shopkeeper Interview: Kelsey & April of Margot + Maude

OK, hold on to your hats and get ready to fall in love with Winnipeg's Kelsey & April and their little shop of dreams, Margot + Maude! We're not kidding... if you like fun, fashion and friendliness, this is your new favourite shop (to go along with our other retailers). Their level of knowledge on what they carry in their shop is incredible, their welcoming nature is classic Canadian, and their selections are simply delightful. When you're in the 'Peg, you simply must pop in.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background(s)?

M + M: We worked independent retail together at a little boutique in Osborne Village back in 2007. We got to be very hands on in our roles there and even after we had moved on, it just stuck with us as our favourite job! We knew we had to do something about it.

Margot + Maude

How do you take your tea or coffee?

M + M: When we were renovating our space before we opened, it was always Baileys & coffee! Always. Mini-addiction. But it was January and we were painting the walls white for like 400 hours, soooo...Baileys! But on a regular day we both opt for coffee & vanilla unsweetened almond milk. Very specific! Haha.

When did you know that you were going to take the jump and open your first store? Scary or thrilling?

M + M: Both! Haha, you're definitely putting yourself out there, and when we opened, it was all us. Scraping our own dollars to make it happen. So very scary. But also it happened so fast that you couldn't help but be thrilled.

How long did it take you to plan & launch?

M + M: We built the store in our heads over many years, like 7 years, and we went to Blanche Macdonald in Vancouver to prep ourselves for anything we didn't learn hands-on in the boutique we worked in previously. We put together a blog to sort of find our brand voice and keep ourselves thinking fashion and paying attention to how the industry was evolving. We got word of a space in our dream neighbourhood and talked to the landlord the very next morning. From there we contacted Futurpreneurs & the BDC about funding...we had two weeks to put together a business plan (which was basically floating around in our head for years), get a business bank account, get quotes on insurance and all the costs associated with our renovations, etc. We only had two weeks because we were working on lease negotiations at the same time and had to secure our funding before we signed the lease. It was the wildest race ever--but we won!

Margot + Maude

So awesome! I love the story about the name [find it on their site, but here's a teaser: To top it all off, one day when the pug-obsessed Kelsey ("aggghh I want one!") and the Valentino-obsessed April ("aggghh he's perfect!") were googling things they stumbled upon the greatest, most serendipitous find ever....] but can you tell us some of the other names you considered?

M + M: We had the name decided since 2012 (we opened in 2016), but before that we tossed around “Let Them Eat Cake,” as a way of saying “go ahead, treat yourself! Indulge!” but ultimately we knew we’d be confused with being a bakery, haha, so we had to drop it. We have a little framed card in our office that says “let them eat cake” as an homage to those early days ;)

When did you first open the doors to the public?

M + M: We had a sneak peek party for our friends and family on March 16, 2016, and then opened the doors to the public March 30, 2016.

How did you choose the location? How do you like the area?

M + M: We always really liked this neighbourhood, it's clean and has sort of a posh vibe. There's a lot of businesses in one clustered area that includes nail salons, hair salons, a bakery, a bridal salon, a Starbucks (aka golden location), and other little boutiques that catered to a similar demographic as us but we're still different enough from our own.

What’s something people wouldn’t know about Winnipeg?

M + M: Winnipeg is secret cool. The rest of the country likes to diss Winnipeg but it's almost better that way, keeps the riff raff out and only a more tolerant, humble crowd in ;) that and there's only one degree of separation between everyone in Winnipeg and Kevin Bacon.

Margot + Maude

What’s one thing that you’ve learned, and that’s really surprised you since opening?

M + M: Winnipeg is the best. I guess that's not a surprise but the surprise is really just how “the best” the people here really are. Winnipeg loves to support local and we’ve really been overwhelmed by the love and support in this community. It's great.

That's so great to hear (Go Jets!). You’ve got such a good product mix, how do you decide what to carry? Do you go to the shows now or is it true that they’re dying a little?

M + M: We go to shows! We like to explore. We pick things that we would want to wear or have in our homes or just make us laugh. We do a lot of Instagram stalking to find new goods as well, so I can see how shows might be less relevant than they once were in that sense, but ultimately we really like to touch and feel and try on as much as possible. We’re definitely “show-goers.”

What are some of your favourite stores or operations out there?

M + M: Oooo, can we just list a bunch of stuff without explanation? Because there's so many great places it's too much writing! To eat: Bronuts, Clementine, King + Bann, Merchant Kitchen, Maque, Enoteca, Deer + Almond, Segovia. The bakery next door to us is incredible, Jenna Rae Cakes, and they just started making cream puffs and it will surely be the cause of our death. It's hard to name shops because we know lots of shop owners and we're afraid to leave anyone out! But here's our number one fave: Tiny Feast. It's this great little stationery and home goods store that you can spend forever in!

What would be your advice to someone who was thinking about opening a retail store from the beginning?

M + M: Focus on one task at a time. If you consider all the tasks you need to complete all at once you’ll get overwhelmed! When you break it down into small manageable tasks, nothing is impossible.

Margot & Maude

Lastly, how popular is this couch? You guys feature it a lot.

M + M: If this couch could talk...

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Shopkeeper Interview: Drew Sutton of Carlton Drew

Los Angeles can often feel big and impersonal, but on West 3rd you'll find a stretch that feels local and friendly. Right in the thick of that vibe you'll find the wonderfully welcoming Carlton Drew - a casual and preppy mens shop with East Coast accents. (See all our accounts at Stockists.) Learn from entrepreneur and founder Drew Sutton on how he had to rethink locations in a hurry, and what to expect if you're deciding to venture out on your own. We love this shop and encourage you to pop in for visit next time you're in LA.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Drew Sutton: I opened Carlton Drew at the end of 2012, before that I was working in merchandising. My job focused on designing and producing merchandise for musicians and designing wardrobe programs for cruise lines. I'm originally from North Carolina and went to college at College of Charleston in South Carolina. 

Carlton Drew

How do you take your tea or coffee?

DS: Hot with almond milk in the morning and either chai or matcha in the afternoon. 

When did you know that you were going to take the jump and open your first store? Scary or thrilling?

DS: Mix of scary and thrilling and everything in-between... basically all the emotions. I was enjoying my job, but after five years, I was feeling a void creatively and kind of stuck in the corporate world. I come from a family of business owners and I felt like it was time for me to step out on my own and do something that I really loved. 

It's amazing how consistent that reasoning is with other launchers. Well done for doing it! How long did it take you to plan and launch in December 2012?

DS: It was about 9 months from business plan to opening day. After I had my business plan I worked on financing the project, looking for a store front, and reaching out to brands simultaneously. I was lucky to have some relationships with a couple of brands through my job that signed on early, and from there I started reaching out to brands that I loved. I did this all pretty secretively because I didn't want my employer at the time to find out. Once I found my space on Melrose I signed the lease and put in my two weeks notice at my job. I got the keys in mid November and worked like a crazy man (with the support of an amazing team) and opened on December 17th. 

Carlton Drew LA

Can you tell us a little bit about the name Carlton Drew?

DS: It's my first and middle name! So I guess I have my parents to thank for the name... haha. 

How did you choose the first location, and what prompted you to move?

DS: The original space was on Melrose. When I opened there the street had a resurgence going and I felt like it was going to become a great area. Unfortunately with the cost of rent going up and street traffic on the decline, stores started closing all around me. Three years later my lease was up and despite numerous empty store fronts on the block, my landlord wanted to double my rent. It was time to say goodbye to Melrose. What was a stressful time turned in to a blessing because I found my current space on W. 3rd and I couldn't be happier! W. 3rd has a buzz that no other street in the area has. It's full of a mix of restaurants, clothing stores, coffee and tea shops, and nail/hair salons. It's an amazing network of local supportive businesses. 

Those are stressful times, but how awesome that you found something better than you could have imagined!? What’s one other thing that you’ve learned, and that’s really surprised you since opening?

DS: I've learned just how hard it is to run a small business. It's stressful and at times confusing... but at the end of the day, it's yours and it's rewarding. It's been a roller coaster but making it through the dips makes the highs that much better. 

Amen! When it comes to your product mix, how do you decide what to carry?

DS: In the beginning I focused on products that I liked because I didn't have a customer base. But as the years have gone on and my customer list has grown, I now buy with a mix of what I like and what I think my customers will like. My selection is a little more classic, so while I look at trends in colors and styles, I don't go overly trendy. 

What are some of your favorite stores or operations out there?

DS: I've become obsessed with W. 3rd Street. I love supporting my neighbors. Quality Food and Beverage, Sweet Green, and Sweet Fin are my go to neighborhood restaurants. Afternoon tea from Matcha Box and happy hour at The Blending Lab are also on my list. Vanderpump Dogs just opened a block over, and it has become Zorro's new happy place. 

Zorro Carlton Drew

Retail is changing all the time, what would be your advice to someone who was thinking about opening a retail store from the beginning?

DS: Try to keep your overhead low. Also be prepared to miss birthdays, weddings, and weekend trips with friends... it's important to be in your store and build relationships with customers, so these are sacrifices you have to be prepared to make. But if it's your dream, the rewards will make the sacrifices worth it because when the day is over you'll realize that one day at a time, you're making your dream become a reality. 

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Shopkeeper Interview: Norwood's Noel Wendt

For many entrepreneurs, when they were younger they maybe had no idea where they were going to end up, but later on you can often chart the path right back to those early moments. (Hindsight is a beautiful thing.) For Noel Wendt of Norwood Clothing Co, those early years were a clear indication of where he was headed, as you'll read in the following interview:
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
NW: I'm Saskatchewan born and raised. Regina has been home for most of my life outside of a few years for high school in Moose Jaw. I started skateboarding in 1984 and it shaped many things in my future including my profession. 
Norwood Noel Wendt
Before we get started, how do you take your tea/coffee?
NW: Typically black medium roast, tea usually green. 
When did you know that you were going to take the jump and open your first store? Scary or thrilling?
NW: I was kind of eased into it actually. In high school it was hard to find pants that I wanted to wear. It was frustrating to the point where reverse engineering a pair of denim and teaching myself to make jeans made sense. After figuring that out I stumbled across a shop in Regina that was manufacturing clothing in house. They had industrial sewing machines, which I hadn't seen before, and I started probing them with questions. A month later I started making denim for that shop (World of Trout), a year later we started selling skateboards in a corner of the shop, and that blossomed to the point where it needed it's own identity. This was the birth of the Tiki Room in 1996 and it is still in operation. At one point I realized that most skateboarding clothing didn't really identify with my style anymore (though I still skate) and Regina was lacking a contemporary men's store. That's when the gears for Norwood were put in motion. This was around 2010.
Here's a full circle moment, somewhere around 1999 I had a line of skate apparel called 'album' that sold at the Tiki Room!
NW: Geez, I might even remember that! Fashion is a smaller world than people realize. 
Norwood Clothing Co
How long did it take you to plan and launch? Do you remember exactly when opening day was?
NW: Norwood was about a year between planning to completion. Our first day of business was September 8, 2011. 
How did you choose the location? How do you like the area?
NW: The Tiki Room has been in downtown Regina since 1998, so we knew the area well and opened on the next block. Downtown Regina definitely has interesting moments, but it feels like home. Norwood's name actually came from our physical location. We hadn't decided on a name yet even though we were half way through the renovation of the space. I was waiting to cross the street one day outside and noticed a utility cap in the sidewalk that had the word NORWOOD on it. The name was thrown around in our camp and ended up sticking. The cap is still in the sidewalk outside and others can be found all over the city. The streets are advertising for us. 
I love that - sometimes you can try so hard when really you just need to be listening. (I won't mention that I was also born in an area of Winnipeg called Norwood.) What’s one thing that you’ve learned, and that’s really surprised you since opening?
NW: Having been in retail for over two decades there are few surprises, but one that has really stood out was the swift adoption of online retailing. The accessibility to literally any product a consumer wants is a reality that makes brick and mortar retail interesting. 
Norwood Regina
Family: Is it challenging to balance entrepreneurship and family, or do they pair well?
NW: There is definitely a fine line with that mix. Everyone needs to be on board and there are definitely sacrifices that are made. There are also perks in being self employed. Like anything in life you have to take the bad with the good. It all depends on your outlook on the situation.
You’ve got such a great product mix, how do you decide what to carry?
NW: There are a few factors. The story, style and presence of a brand are crucial. Pricing is a factor. You can't carry lines beyond your customer base's budget. We focus on classics and try to provide things that you'll have in your closet for longer than one season. Canadian made products are always a bonus.
Norwood Regina
What are some of your favourite stores or operations out there?
NW: There are plenty of stores that come to mind. Within skateboarding: shops like Antisocial, Ninetimes, Green Apple and Blue Tile are some of my faves (there are too many to list). I like what retailers such as Livestock, Purr, Gravity Pope, Bon Vivant and Still Life are doing. There are many suppliers that we have great relationships with solely based on their employees as well - including Cursor & Thread!
The feeling is mutual - relationships are as important as ever in this industry. Retail is changing all the time, what would be your advice to someone who was thinking about opening a retail store from the beginning?
NW:  In this day and age an online store and active social media are crucial. And be prepared to wear many hats, expand your skill set, and stay humble. 
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Shopkeeper Interviews: Muddy George

Sometimes the world just wants you to be a retail entrepreneur whether you have the experience or not. That's what happened to Altaf Baksh when he just couldn't resist opening Muddy George in Toronto's Bloorcourt neighbourhood, where he provides a carefully selected range of menswear brands, including Cursor & Thread. 

How do you take your tea or coffee?

AB: I'm an Orange Pekoe guy in the morning and like a coffee in the afternoon. Both double-double.

Muddy George Toronto

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

AB: Before opening the store, I spent the previous nine years in a corporate setting, in HR. While I didn't hate what I was doing, it wasn't my passion. While I had no retail or fashion industry experience to count on while planning and running the store, I've always had an interest in fashion and enjoy running a business. 

When did you know that you were going to take the leap and open your first store?

AB: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit about me, which I get from my dad. I always said that I would open up a store if I won the lottery, but I don’t actually play, so it was never a real consideration. That is until the summer of 2014, when my girlfriend started to really push me to do it. It was definitely an exciting process but the unknowns made it a little scary at the same time. As I met with different brands and got immersed in conversation, I knew this was something I really wanted to do.

Muddy George Toronto

How long did it take you to plan and launch?

AB: In the late summer of 2014, I started to write a business plan and then contact local brands and, thanks to their support, my progress started to snowball. I really began to look for spaces in January 2015 and finalizing a lease took much longer than I thought.

Can you tell us a little bit about the name Muddy George?

AB: Muddy refers to Toronto when it was called York. Back then, there were no sewers or storm drains, and the streets were unpaved. When it rained, the water would accumulate on the dirt roads, transforming them into often impassable muddy avenues. Hence the disparaging Muddy York was coined. My mom to this day, calls me George, from Curious George. So I combined the two nicknames.

Muddy George Toronto

How did you choose the location? How do you like the area?

AB: I knew I wanted a neighbourhood shop... something that the locals could relate too. So I stayed away from the bigger streets where stores already existed. Granted I'd get more foot traffic but I want to have a connection with people that come in, and I just don't feel I'd have that being just another shop on a busy street. The area of Toronto I'm in (Bloorcourt) is very bar and restaurant dense. There are a couple of women's & vintage shops in the area but generally it's food-heavy... so we really stand out. The area is changing (gentrifying) but it's still a little sketchy at times so that keeps the rent a little lower =). But I do love the neighbourhood... one of the reasons I choose it was because my girlfriend and I would often come to Bloorcourt to eat, and being a shopper, there really wasn't anywhere for me to shop... so I figured the area could do with a men's store.

When did you first open the doors to the public?

AB: After about six weeks of renovations we opened late August, 2015. 

What’s one thing that you’ve learned, and that’s really surprised you since opening?

AB: I thought my clientele would be 25 to 35 year olds but it's really 30 to 65, which surprised me a little. But it's great at the same time. More than that, a lot of women also buy things for themselves which is awesome too.

Muddy George Toronto

You’ve got such a great product mix, how do you decide what to carry?

AB: Thanks! About 75% of the stock we carry is made in Canada, with the rest being made in Japan, the US and Europe. While each brand offers something unique in their own way, they all share the same passion for quality and craftsmanship. The unifying theme of the brands carried is that each piece is well made, wearable and timeless. We have a lot of accessories too: men’s jewelry, apothecary and bags. Everything lasts multiple seasons. The idea is that you won’t have to clean out your closet twice a year (or throw stuff out after a couple of washes). 

What are some of your favourite stores or operations out there?

AB: I try and support independent and local businesses as much as possible, particularly in the neighbourhood. Restaurants like Actinolite and The Emerson usually end up taking my money. Pop Box Market, Village Pizza, The Common and Gasparro's are great neighbourhood joints.

What would be your advice to someone who was thinking about opening a retail store from scratch?

AB: It's a cliché but honestly follow your dream, especially if it's opening up a retail store. There are minimal barriers to entry and if you're passionate and work hard, success is bound to follow.

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Shopkeeper Interviews: Caroline and Daniel of WALRUS

Five and a half years ago was a ballsy time to open a new retail shop in Vancouver - add a massive city infrastructure project on the same street and now you're really talking. However, Caroline Boquist and Daniel Kozlowski did just that when they opened WALRUS. We met them shortly after opening when our worlds intersected, and we've been friends ever since. The store is well-loved by passers-by and loyalists alike because of the excellent product mix and friendly & knowledgeable staff, all packed into a cozy space on Cambie Street.

Cursor & Thread: How’s your summer been? How’s the neighbourhood?

Daniel Kozlowski: Summer has been great! It’s sunny out and people are happy!

C&T: Congratulations on the success of the last 5+ years! Do you remember where you were the moment you officially decided to open the shop? Can you remember the feeling?

Caroline Boquist: I don’t remember the exact moment, but I do remember the feeling. I was excited, nervous, energized... I felt like it was now or never. 

C&T: Does that feel like ages ago, or three weeks ago?

DK: I can’t believe it has been 5½ years! It doesn’t feel that long ago to me but I guess that's a good thing!
CB: It does not feel like that many years ago. Time has flown by! 

C&T: What's one thing that really surprised you about running a shop?

DK: Paperwork!
CB: I was actually surprised how much I like it.

C&T: Well it shows - nothing worse than a disgruntled shopkeeper. How would you say retail has changed since you opened your doors?

DK: There is definitely more online shopping now but I think there is also more awareness of local shopping and local products which really serves us well. We have lots of clients who look for well made/functional products.
CB: Yes. When we opened WALRUS, we were in the height of the recession, so perhaps people in general have become a little more thoughtful with their spending. That being said, in the last five years, there are a lot more independent shops that have opened. I think we have an excellent selection of small local businesses in Vancouver – despite the increase of big chains moving into the city.

C&T: What's something you've learned about Vancouver or its people in that time? 

CB: I've heard people talk about how Vancouver people can be cold, and standoffish, but speaking specifically about our clients, they’re warm, loyal and enjoy shopping locally. We adore them!!

C&T: Well, as a customer, now I'm blushing. Which is more important now in brick and mortar, product mix or service, or is it still location cubed?

DK: I think both product choices and service are still very important.
CB: For WALRUS, I think it’s all three. We like to keep the selection changing, we strive to exceed client service and we chose a location where we’d be rooted in community while being easily accessible. Vancouver is a small town – it’s easy for us to stick to what’s around us, but important to make an effort to move around the city... see what’s out there, beyond our own neighbourhood.  We love discovering the other neighbourhoods as much as we can! I think people are getting used to destination shopping. 

C&T: How have you noticed design change in the last five years?

DK: We see a lot more colour.
CB: Referencing my previous comment on how people are shopping – I feel like inventive design is becoming more and more challenging. There is so much out there! With the increasing popularity of 'the general store' concept over the last five years, people seem to be yearning for an old or familiar aesthetic. Some design is being dictated by that desire. Familiar shapes, materials... I think design is coming back to natural materials. I’m wanting to see more organic/tactile pieces in a contemporary form: playful, functional, colourful. At least that’s what I’m finding myself drawn to more and more over the last five years. 

C&T: It's great that you get to curate your offerings to what you want to see in the marketplace. Most people have to wish and hunt for what they want. On that note, what are the top five brands you're really excited about?

DK: Well, it’s the end of the summer but I really like the sunglasses from D’Blanc. We just placed our order for Native Shoes for Spring 2015 and there are some great new styles. (Cursor & Thread of course!)

C&T: What are your top five other shops that you like right now.

DK: I like food a lot, so I have to say Beaucoup Bakery, The Fish Counter on Main St, and Matchstick Coffee.
CB: Oliver & Lilly’s, BeautyMark, The Juice Truck, The Block, Matchstick, Merci.

C&T: If your shop was a person or a mix of people, who would that/they be?

CB: This is a question I’d like to ask you!

C&T: Geez, OK... The Hives come to mind, Paul Smith, modern mods and well dressed gents in general, but I don't think you can just avoid a question like that though...

CB: OK (but I just did).

C&T: Well played Caroline. What's your favourite piece of men's formal wear to see worn casually?

CB: Bow ties.

C&T: Can you personally tie a bow tie while wearing braces, and whistling?

DK: Nope, I have to watch the instruction on YouTube!

Many thanks to Daniel and Caroline for taking the time to chat with us, and for having one of the best curated design gift boutiques on the planet at 3408 Cambie Street in Vancouver, Canada.

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Shopkeeper Interviews: Jeff Brodawka of "Brodawka & Friends"

We've had the pleasure of knowing, the always well-dressed, quick-witted and polite, Jeff Brodawka for the better part of a decade now. For the first time in that relationship we managed to make record of a recent conversation in his wonderful boutique Brodawka & Friends in Toronto which he opened to the world two years ago.

Cursor & Thread: Can I buy you a beverage? What's your first choice?

Jeff Brodawka: Espresso - but it would have to be in Italy, so that's on you.

C&T: Do you remember where you were the moment you decided to open the first shop? Can you remember the feeling?

JB: Yep, I was at a shoe show and paid a visit to the booth of this great little handmade shoe brand/factory. We had a long conversation about design and development and fashion and leather and colours and that was the first little spark of I could do this. It felt like the right next step.

C&T: You were involved in retail and fashion design before you opened your own shop and started your own brand, how would you say fashion retail has changed in the last 5 years?

JB: More online and sadly more cheap stuff. Smarter buying but seemingly more conservative and safe. Which starts to stunt the imagination of the consumer. However, on a positive note, I suppose it opens up space for a shop like mine.

C&T: Which is more important now in brick and mortar, product mix or service... or is it still location cubed?

JB: Service is huge in solidifying a long term relationship with people but it won't make any difference if the product is not what the people want. You can only do so much, selling people on something a customer is not already interested in without risking buyers remorse and a damaged relationship. But it's still all location, otherwise you have no-one to impress with your beautiful product and remarkable service. The short answer... trick question.

C&T: How do you think men's fashion has changed in the last 5 years?

JB: Smarter dressing definitely. Men are starting to become ever so slightly more interested in what they wear. It's still mostly faintly uniformish (skinny jeans, beards, whatever the other pieces are) but men are starting to explore a little individuality. A dude just came in this morning and bought a pocket square with the intention of using it like a headband - Springsteen style.

C&T: What are the top 5 brands you're really excited about?

JB: In the world? Berluti, Haider Ackermann, Lanvin, Ami, and N. Hoolywood (sometimes).

C&T: What are your Top 5 other shops that you like right now (location anywhere). 

JB: You love the number five! Sydneys (Toronto), opening ceremony (LA), DAAD (Milan), 10 Corso Como (Milan)... that's only four. I haven't gotten out much the past few years.

C&T: If your shop was a person or a mix of people, who would that/they be?

JB: The cast of une femme est une femme, strictly due to the all white apartment and colourful exotic dancer outfits. They seem like the type of people who would wear my shoes. And I would want to hang out with them and learn french.

C&T: What's your favourite piece of men's formal wear to wear casually?

JB: The suit vest.

C&T: Did you just look at what you're wearing right now? Can you personally tie a bow tie while wearing braces, and whistling?

JB: Replace "whistling" with "cursing" and the answer is yes... eventually.

Many thanks to Jeff for being awesome all the time, always supplying cookies, and designing the finest footwear in Toronto! Visit Brodawka & Friends at 1114 Queen Street West.

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