By LeRae Haynes –
ECOtique is a fresh new business model opening soon in the Delainey Centre Mall on Oliver Street in Williams Lake. It’s a collective created by Angie Delainey, Penny Hutchinson, and Maureen LeBourdais, social entrepreneurs who make their home in the community.
The store, which will be open November 12 to December 23, will carry a collection by each of the three women. Each has her own story and her own direction, but there is a shared philosophy and passion for customer service and building a downtown community destination.
“There’s a social purpose at ECOtique,” explained Delainey. “We’re looking to provide shopping with a good, ethical background where things are reused, reclaimed, and repurposed, and where sustainability and fair trade are imbedded to the core.”
Hutchinson said they focus on indigenous writers and artists. “We focus on quality and on shopping that has a positive social impact on somebody,” she said. “We feel good about that.”
ECOtique will carry things like hand-felted rugs, alpaca blankets, ponchos, jewellery, home furnishings and decor, clothing, baskets, yoga wear, and yoga equipment and accessories.
“We’ll also have locally handcrafted teas with samples available,” said Delainey, adding that they’re looking at setting up a small coffee shop and bringing in live music.
“We want this to be a relaxing, fun, social experience when you’re here.”
They have kept some of the product lines that Dandelion Living carried.
Delainey said she brings Nomads organic hemp wear, Prana yoga wear, and Halfmoon yoga props and accessories to the new store. Hutchinson contributes Granville Johnson baskets made by women in Africa; drums from Africa and the Chilcotin; Mexican Huichol art bracelets, necklaces, and beaded wrist cuffs, and Penny’s Collectables. LeBourdais will have her beautiful MamaQuilla imported items.
Both Hutchinson and LeBourdais have visited the places around the world where they buy their items.
“I love to travel, and have a focus on textiles and indigenous culture,” said LeBourdais, who is a felter and weaver. “I met families and groups from around the world working to produce traditional textiles from handmade cloth. It’s been in decline, having to compete with mass production—the fact that western consumers expect things to be cheap.
“There’s a price to be paid in the world when we want to buy cheap—that’s what started MamaQuilla.”
The three countries LeBourdais imports from are Cambodia, Ecuador, and Kyrgyzstan (north of Afghanistan). She sells jewellery, clothing, accessories, home décor, beautiful rugs, novelty items, cushion covers, and silk scarves.
“To me, fair trade means the artist makes a living wage, no child labour, and good working conditions,” she explained.
The big appeal of ECOtique is that everything is unique and not mass-produced—it’s all small collections, said Delainey.
“I also think the store’s in a great location,” said LeBourdais. “I believe in supporting our downtown business community and love that revitalizing the downtown core has become a priority.
“I believe what’ll bring people in the door is that it’s a locally-owned downtown business carrying a lot of the same brands as Dandelion Living. There are a lot of people who want to support ethical purchases, who want to know that when they buy a gift it’s unique, and who want to know, wherever in the world the artists are, it matters that they’re treated well.”
The Delainey Centre Mall has historical and family significance for the women. “My grandparents, Shirley and Chuck Delainey, had a hardware business here for 45 years, said Delainey.
“ECOtique is set up in Grandma’s houseware section. People still remember her displays.”
Hutchinson grew up around the store, too; her mother Carol was best friends with Shirley Delainey. “There are family connections and historical connections for us,” said Hutchinson. “It feels good to me here.
LeBourdais said she loves that it’s a heritage building, adding that it’s friends and family for her, too. “Angie is my daughter in law and I worked with Penny for many years,” she explained. “We have similar values and beliefs.”
Shopping local is important, she adds. “If you buy from me, I buy a book next door, they buy food from the Growers Market,” she said. “It just goes around town.”
One thing ECOtique is doing to enhance local shopping is offering extended hours. “It’s sometimes a challenge in the downtown when you want to stroll around and pop in stores after work and nothing’s open,” said Delainey. “We’ll be open Monday to Thursday 11a.m. to 6p.m., Friday 1-9p.m., and Saturday 11a.m. to 5 p.m., and other downtown businesses are talking about extending hours, too.”
“We want to be focused on thanking people for coming in; we want to engage with the community and make the experience welcoming whether you’re buying or not,” said Hutchinson.
Delainey said when she was a kid Christmas was huge at Delainey’s.“They’d have popcorn, lots of decorations, and a beanbag toss and everybody was in a festive mood,” she said.
“Check out what we have for Christmas at ECOtique. There’s something for everybody and every pocketbook.
“Come in and see what’s going on.”
ECOtique is located at 271 Oliver Street. For more information, call (250) 305-4422 and watch for the store’s upcoming Facebook presence.
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.