‘It’s a crazy time to open a store:’ Ottawa Artisans launching St. Laurent Mall boutique shop

By Denis Armstrong

As businesses get set to reopen in Ottawa, a year-old online start-up, selling locally produced crafts, is ready to launch a boutique shop in the St. Laurent Mall.

The brainchild of three local artisan entrepreneurs, Andreanne King, Kathy Leedom and Stephanie Daines; Ottawa Artisans Store is designed to feel like a fun shopping adventure, with hundreds of one-of-a-kind items, including cosmetics, kitchenware, art, apparel and gift items produced by artisans and crafters from Eastern Ontario and Quebec.

“I know it's a crazy time to open a store, but it's a great time too,” says King. “The pandemic and online shopping changed the way we consume products completely. You can see the impact; empty stores. But there's a lot of support for local businesses out there. Customers want something different. We want to support our community of crafters. We want to put money back into the pockets of our neighbours.”

Launched in February of 2020, just as the pandemic was hitting North America, OttawaArtisans.com has since grown to a roster of 400 artisans, with an inventory of more than 10,000 items. Sales in the year since total more than $200,000.

“I didn't think the website would do as well as it did,” King, a 33-year-old mother of two from Stittsville confesses. “But I knew the interest was there.”

Like dining or going to the movies, shopping is, at its best, meant to be shared. So when Leedom and Daines, artisans both as well as entrepreneurs, approached King with a suggestion they create a Ottawa Artisans pop-up gift shop for St. Laurent's Holiday Market last December, they knew it was a chance to take the business to the next level.

“People like going to the mall,” says King. “It's where the community goes to shop, try on clothes, have lunch, meet friends or just watch people. It's an experience you can't have online.”

The pop-up shop was a hit with Christmas shoppers, and sustainable enough for St. Laurent's Specialty Leasing Manager to offer them a gentle year-long lease.

“It was clear their pop-up space wasn't big enough,” says Svetla Entcheva, whose job is to develop new retail opportunities at the mall. “Their sales were remarkably good. We saw the potential there.”

In the meantime, the business has taken over most of King's waking hours. Ironically, she's had to give up crafting, which was the reason she got into online retail in the first place. Given the amount of work managing a growing website and a young family requires, something had to give.

“The only time I have to work on the website is when the kids are asleep,” she admits. “There will be time for sewing when the kids are older.”

Moving the business forward, King is expected to concentrate on managing the website, while Leedom and Daines will run the new store which they say they want to make as interesting and exciting as possible, with regular promotional events like the Virtual Market event scheduled for March 18-21.

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