Giving Gifts started in a closet in my baby’s bedroom. One closet full of fair trade and eco friendly gifts that I loved. Ten years ago when online stores were just starting, I opened mine. I offered pick-up from my house and would sneak into her bedroom during nap time in order to grab what I needed. Now that baby is 11 years old and Giving Gifts has changed so much, just as she has.
It's Giving Gifts Eighth Year Anniversary! Eight years ago we opened a pop-up store for 6 weeks, just to see what having a store was like. It had been my dream to have a "real" store and when we opened for those 6 weeks I loved everything about having a physical store, meeting customers, having more room to sell more gifts, having set hours every day where people could shop and so much more... At the end of the 6 weeks I couldn’t imagine shutting down and moving everything back into the shared showroom space I had been renting. I also thought that having a “real” store would prove success in business. Looking back at now, I know I was definitely wrong with that assumption.
The Giving Gifts store has changed so much in the past eight years. Going from the ugliest store on Main Street (we definitely were) with only 12 vendors, to such a beautiful space with more than 200 artists around the world involved. Eight years ago, the building was a graffitied mess. It was boarded up for two years before we got it and the first time I walked in I was tempted to say forget it and walk right back out. Every room was painted a different colour (think red, bright blue, teal green, etc) and there were sinks everywhere. We did our best with the pop-up shop to make it work and closed for two days in order to transform the entire store to reopen as Giving Gifts & Company. The store officially opened on April 1st having just painted every room, every floor and the entire exterior of the building. I still remember when I saw it for the first time. My jaw literally dropped when I saw the difference a coat of paint (well maybe a couple coats and a good power-washing) could make. Giving Gifts was started with hard work and determination all while I was working another job 25 hours a week and raising three very young children. It was not started with a lot of money (or any money really) we relied on our artists to bring in their own furniture, set-up their own spaces and take turns staffing the store. I called it Giving Gifts & Company as the actual Giving Gifts store only had one of the five rooms with the rest of the store being rented out to other vendors. It was a hard model trying to be a cooperative store and balance everything. At one point 20 people had keys and trying to figure out the staffing schedule made me want to cry every month. The store and the way we run it has changed quite a bit over the years and each reiteration felt like a breath of fresh air getting closer to the diamond hidden in the rough.
It took us years to get here, but I am so proud of where we are at today! We are a true artist collective that works to support and promote artists from across Canada and Fair Trade businesses from around the world. And, with as many changes as we've had in the past eight years, we are getting ready for some more. Our store needs a facelift! It has been eight years so we just launched the Giving Gifts beautification project where you’ll soon see a new exterior for the store. We just started the process so nothing is confirmed yet but I know we’ll be getting a new sign with her proper name of Giving Gifts as we are all part of the store now and none of us are company. You’ll also see some improvements to our Dreamer Girl mural as the store may be unrecognizable in every way from when we first started other than our Dream Girl who has some graffiti.
We promise to have a fun celebration for our 8th year anniversary and store beautification as soon as it is all complete. Thanks for being part of our journey and helping us to shine. Whether you were around when Myelle (that baby with the closet) was in diapers or just joined us last week, we are so grateful to you for Giving Gifts!