New decor shop a family affair
Brick & Mortar Living almost crumbled before it came to life.
For more than a year, Jenn Pistone and her daughters Julia Dewhurst and Emma Nash had been formulating their idea for a home decor boutique selling unique reimagined and handcrafted items, forging connections with designers and artisans, acquiring stock, coming up with a name, looking for the perfect location.
Julia knew exactly what she wanted. With 11 years experience in retail, both on the sales floor and in management, she envisioned a storefront with two display windows flanking a door in the center, and a bathroom with black and white tiles.
They looked in all the trendy shopping districts, Commercial Drive, Yaletown, Gastown. It was on Begbie Street they found the right spot, even the colour of the tiles in the tiny bathroom in the back.
But before they could commit to the white, high-ceilinged space in the ground floor of the old Arundel Mansions, an artist had snatched it up to create a gallery. The three women decided maybe the timing wasn’t right, maybe the retail gods were sending them a message; they put their plans on hold.
Three months later, a chance glance at Craigslist resurrected their dream. The gallery had closed, the space was again available.
Since then, they’ve been putting in long days and late nights, juggling shifts at their current jobs, to get their shop ready for its grand opening on Thursday.
When the door officially swings open at 7 p.m., it will be the culmination of a journey Jenn says she felt was inevitable.
All three have a background in retail. They all have a creative flair for transforming old, discarded items into unique decorative pieces and their personalities mesh in a constructive way.
“We all have the same style and vision,” says Jenn, who lives in Burnaby. “We see it as a collaboration.”
Not that there haven’t been challenges.
Foremost was the shop’s name, which is the result of countless brainstorming sessions in restaurants.
“I don’t even want to think about how much money we spent on meals to come up with the name,” says Jenn.
With New Westminster’s Downtown suddenly the focus of a lot of attention as new condos continue to rise, historic buildings are refurbished and the new Civic Centre is constructed, the three women are keen to bring their own touch to their new community.
“I can’t stand it when something perfectly functional is thrown into the landfill,” says Jenn.
So the back half of the shop is dedicated to their workshop, where they transform old tennis rackets into cork notice boards, create unique greeting cards from potato stamps or jewelry from vintage buttons. They’ve also created a line of baby blankets and soft washcloths and they’re in the process of designing a new line of pillows. Other items, like coasters created from vintage maps, pendants, earrings and other decorative knicknacks are offered on consignment from local designers.
With the freshly painted walls now dry, the displays in place, the business license issued, the shop’s Facebook page alive with messages of encouragement, the three women are holding their breath in anticipation of unlocking their dream.
“We love it, but will everyone else love it?” says Jenn.
• Brick & Mortar Living is at 42 Begbie St. They’re also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/brickandmortarliving