Exploring the new micro-retail trend.
May 1, 2018
Simone Pettigrew had been cutting and styling hair for about five years, under the model that many hair stylists use — chair rental. Typically, stylists pay fees to established salons to use their spaces and resources. But when she had the opportunity to oversee her own micro-salon within Residence Beauty Studio, she decided to try it out and, two years later, has two successful salons within the space. “I decided to do this model because for almost the same price as a chair rental you can have your own space, bring in your own product, create your own vibe and brand,” Pettigrew says.
This, exactly, is what owner Andor Bubelenyi had in mind when he opened Residence with his brother, Attila, in Mill Creek in 2013, and expanded the concept to a second location in Strathcona in December 2017. Bubelenyi has owned Fuss Art of Hair since 2000, using the chair-rental model, but was intrigued by the studio rental model when he saw large chains like Sola Salon Studios champion the concept in the United States. “Sometimes in business you need to reinvent yourself to go forward,” Bubelenyi says. “I felt there was a need for something that was a step up from [chair rental], that wasn’t owning a big salon and having a lot of employees, signing a lease, and having expensive overhead that could be challenging for the owner to run a business. It gives stylists the opportunity to try being a salon owner.” Bubelenyi also benefits from talent retention; when his stylists at Fuss are ready to be more independent, they can move to Residence instead of leaving for another salon. The studio model, however, has its challenges. For Pettigrew, it’s been managing absolutely all aspects of her business, from reception to marketing to cleaning. “It’s not for someone who doesn’t have the drive to market themselves and work hard,” Pettigrew says. “My experience has been very successful. My clients have been extremely supportive and great at referrals. I really look forward to seeing the future for my little studio.”
Mark Ghermezian also wants to give creators the opportunities to learn the ins and outs of business ownership while growing their audiences. The son of one of the founders of West Edmonton Mall (WEM) — and the co-founder of mobile marketing company Braze — Ghermezian often has retail on his mind. “We’re always trying to think about…what’s another thing that we can create to be part of retail, really try to innovate and be a part of what my father and uncles have done.” His current contribution: Retail As A Space, or RAAS, which opened at WEM in October 2017 with over 20 local vendors. RAAS is a block of furnished market stalls that can be equipped with the shelving, fixtures and point-of-sale system the business needs. The owner simply needs to provide product and staffing. “For me it was about lowering the barrier to entry for local and emerging brands because I believe there’s so much great product and talent out there,” Ghermezian says. Many of the businesses were selling online or through other retailers before opening up in RAAS, which provides small bricks-and-mortar platforms and access to foot traffic.
Kara Chomistek opened PARKSHOP — the retail iteration of her brand, PARK, which includes events and workshops highlighting the work of national clothing and accessory designers — in RAAS in February. Previously, PARKSHOP had an online presence and a standalone retail space, but Chomistek liked the community feel of RAAS. “Shoppers seem to understand the local concept more when it is presented this way,” Chomistek says. “People know right away that they are supporting a local business, and they will be able to find special pieces they won’t see anywhere else.” Over at City Centre Mall and Premium Outlet Collection Mall, Candace Boudreau has just expanded her Curated markets into a more permanent retail concept. Previously, Curated markets were held a few times a year in Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon, but now Curated vendors — which will change every three months — can sell products full-time in The Curated Shop. Boudreau tested the concept in October 2017, and was more than pleased with the results. “We had an overwhelming response in the downtown core, and we couldn’t wait to come back,” Boudreau says. “It was so interesting to hear people say, ‘we love buying local, but we don’t like going to markets.’ I was stunned! As a market producer, I was naïve enough to believe every person was a market person. The need and want for handmade and local is definitely growing, and I have found that bringing it to the public in other forms, different from a market scenario, is more appealing to a greater audience. To introduce makers to people that may not find them otherwise is completely exhilarating.”
Creating a supportive, multi-talented community is what Jaime Hager had in mind when he and his wife, Cassidie, opened up Studio YEG Art in October 2017. The two refurbished a space in an unassuming strip mall to create a hub for locals to discover emerging artists and try their hands at some art themselves. Every three months, the Hagers showcase work from at least six different artists — from jewellery makers to painters to sculptors — in a casual gallery-retail-studio hybrid space. They also encourage artists to drop in for open studio times to work on projects, brainstorm ideas and collaborate.
“Promoting local, emerging artists is the main thing we want to do, to help them get their name out there,” Hagar says. Anyone with a creative inkling is encouraged to take one of their artist-led workshops and try weaving, painting, stained glass and a number of other techniques.
“For a night out, rather than having to do a generic paint night, here they can paint or make something a little more customized,” Hagar says.
What’s been most popular for Studio YEG Art so far is its collaborations with other local businesses; it’s worked with restaurateur Jordan Watson from Cartago, and will be teaching classes on crafting clay charcuterie boards while Tricia Bell from Cavern talks about plating cheese and charcuterie. “We’re going for a community feel — it helps promote them and us,” Hagar says.
This article appears in the May 2018 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.