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New consignment store successfully launches in Kanata amid pandemic challenges

Stacey and Mark MacLellan, the store owner of Plato's Closet, are hopeful that the "thrifting" trend among the younger generation could help their new location be successful.

Several hours before the grand opening, approximately 70 customers were lined up outside Plato's Closet's new location.

After a long search of nearly seven years to bring the store to Ottawa's west-end, owners Stacey and Mark MacLellan found a space to launch their new store.

Plato's Closet, which first opened its doors in 2014, has successfully launched its newest and third location on 420 Hazeldean Rd., in Kanata. Though the grand opening was a success, finding a new location to launch their store wasn't easy. Competitive real estate prices and limited business spaces in Ottawa's west end were among the many reasons they couldn't open. 

"There wasn't a lot of spots [in Kanata]," says Stacey MacLellan. "We were always looking for Kanata as a location, but the rent was too high."

It was also a matter of finding approximately the ideal square footage to accommodate the number of products. The plans for this store and the Merivale branch, were both developed during the last year. Though the MacLellans were able to open on Merivale Road in early 2020, the Hazeldean location had to wait.

In preparation for their new store (and while navigating the ever-changing pandemic restrictions), training employees for their new location also came to a standstill. However, the few employees who were allowed to work in the store shifted their focus on increasing sales through their online platform. 

Though multiple lockdowns gave the store owners and their employees time to adjust to new sets of restrictions, the preparation to get their new store underway was anything but smooth. 

MacLellan says, on top of the pandemic uncertainty, accomplishing certain tasks such as acquiring materials became harder because of the restricted retail hours in some cases.

"The construction industry was kind of crazy as well," says MacLellan. "So to find contractors, to be able to get the work done was challenging, as well. [Even] little things like something that you would run to the hardware store and pick up, if you needed. Everything was closed, so we weren't able to do things like that,"

The official opening of the Kanata location was also delayed because they weren't able to get an inspection until it was safe enough to do so.

Prior to the grand opening, Plato's Closet was opened for several weeks, but only for customers to buy items, not to sell.

Though it was frustrating amid the uncertainty, MacLellan says watching the success of their Merivale location, was a good indicator that the Kanata location would work once it was allowed to become fully functional. 

"We never had any doubt that we would bounce back from the pandemic that people still want to buy secondhand," says MacLellan.

The recent grand opening exceeded her expectations. 

"We're very happy with the turnout, everybody was fantastic. We have [had] a lot of support [within] our stores,"

Despite the minimal restrictions that are currently in place, the staff is still proceeding with caution, such as allowing a limited number of customers indoors, as well as ensuring that they are socially distanced and masked up. 

Although there are concerns of a fourth COVID-19 variant-driven wave, MacLellan says she's not too worried about her businesses. She says that with the recovery from the several lockdowns, she has faith in the growing and demanding market of "thrifting" among the younger generation. 

“This generation, specifically, the people who are in their teens and early 20s right now, have lived with the recycling message since they started school [which] has been really pushed on them, which is great," says MacLellan. "This generation has embraced the concept of thrifting [because] it's fun and trendy." 

She also adds that the resale market is of the reasons she believes the Kanata location will continue to be successful.

The MacLellans also own a third Plato's Closet location on St. Laurent Boulevard. 

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