Flash Boutique illuminates downtown with handmade retailers

Just as Chook Clothing Co. decamped from the Graham Avenue storefront in September, a mob of Etsy retailers scurried to set up shop as part of another rollout of CentreVenture Development Corporation’s Pop Up Shop Hop program.
In the end, Chook was invited to be part of the 47-artist army that took over the space for a three-month stint at 438 Graham Ave.
Katerina Pappas, a leader with the Winnipeg Etsy Street Team (W.E.S.T.), put together the proposal for Flash Boutique, and curated the group of participating artists.
“Everything is handmade with the exception of three vintage shops,” says Pappas, who looked for a range of artisans who sell soaps and consumables to artwork, pottery, clothing and accessories. “This stuff deserves to be in a retail location.”

Rustic, handmade signs at Flash Boutique.
Rustic, handmade signs at Flash Boutique by True Roots Design.

Rent is charged per square foot in the shop, allowing retailers to cover an affordable share. “The rate for this space is beyond reach for any of these artists,” says Pappas. “Without CentreVenture, (this is) not going to happen.”
Pappas herself has a successful line of jewelry called Aeliosdesign – she is a metalsmith who uses eco-friendly methods.

Katerina Pappas with her line of eco-friendly jewelry, Aeliosdesign.
Katerina Pappas with her line of eco-friendly jewelry, Aeliosdesign.

She began creating with raw materials and semi-precious stones while living in Europe, and wanted to “carve out a role” for herself here in Winnipeg when she returned.
“I knew I was going to be coming back, so I contacted them (W.E.S.T.).
“It’s really great for people who are just starting out so they have somebody they can talk to,” says Pappas. “You make a bigger impact (and) you get more done as a team.
“My role has really grown to the other end of the spectrum.”
Pappas oversaw an initiative at Flash to forge a link between the customers and the artists. Although many of the artists can’t be available all week, an artist’s bio is featured aside each shop’s items to create a connection to the artist.
Test market
Loved Shorts, an upcycled vintage retailer that was started by 19-year-old Dara Dueck two years ago, sells her mostly denim products at the St. Norbert Farmers’ Market and has joined Flash Boutique for its run.
Because she specializes in high-waisted shorts primarily, she is testing new seasonal products like throw pillows at the shop.

Dara Dueck's handmade pillows and upcycled denim jacket with lace.
Dara Dueck’s handmade pillows and upcycled denim jacket with lace in the shop window.

She sources trendy textiles from vintage retailers or online shops, and uses them to customize her thrifted denims with print cutouts, lace details and/or studs – or to create unique pillows.
“The first year I did it… I thought I was going to pay for a trip to Nepal, which I never went on, but I could’ve,” says Dueck, who’s found a niche with her unique handmade creations.
She uses the long, creatively rousing winters to hash out her many looks for the summer months. “Before Farmers’ Market started, I think I had 300-some pairs,” says Dueck. She replenishes stock throughout the summer based on hot sellers, and has found a range of markets gravitate to the vintage, distressed jean look. On a busy day, she sold upwards of 29 pairs of the shorts at the market.
The opportunity to keep 100 per cent of sales that they make at Flash and pay for just a portion of a larger space allows the retailers to use the opportunity to test the downtown market at a relatively affordable rate – while offering a prime destination to shop local over the holidays.
Flash will be open until at least December’s end, though they are in talks to extend their run to the end of February.
“This is a really good little spot,” says Pappas. “Everyone’s been happy with the traffic.
“It’s good for Winnipeg (and) it’s good for the downtown… I mean, it’s the heart of the city. Why isn’t it the trendy end of the city?”

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