Moving On Up!
Well, we have some BIG news and I’m excited to share with all you pals and loyal customers! After six years at our location at 181 King St East, we will be moving about a block down the street to a bigger and better location this July! Our new home is located at 221 King St East (between two awesome neighbours Cherry Birch General on the left and Gameopolis on the right). This move is a big step for us and means awesome things for GOTW! Here’s a bit of the backstory and some sneak peeks…
About a year ago, the owner of the GOTW building decided to put it up for sale. My original emotion was shock/ fear/ sadness. But then I started to think that maybe I should try to buy it from him- I loved the building and with two empty floors above it, I started to dream about living on the top floor and using the second floor as a studio and event space. This was all a wonderful vision, but reality set in and I realized…I’m a small business owner, there’s no way I can afford to buy a building and invest the money required into it! So as much as I tried to negotiate with the building owner to drop the price in the name of me loving it with all my heart- it just wasn’t going to happen. The building hit the market and a few months later, it was sold, along with a few other buildings on the same block. The new owner was willing to work with me and keep me as a tenant. But with new building owners comes new rent prices! My rent would be going up 60% (that is no exaggeration), and while I knew an increase was inevitable, I also felt like for the extra amount I’d be paying, I wouldn’t really be getting anything more- or better. I started flirting with the idea of moving locations. It was scary at first and nothing really compared to my current space. But then, there was some hope…
My friend Lisa who owns Cherry Birch mentioned a few times that the space next door to her was for rent and shared the same landlord as her space. It was an old Money Mart so it was really hard for me to envision the space- I peeked in the windows a few times and didn’t think much of it. On top of that the rent was a lot higher than I’d been paying and the idea of a hugely higher rent on top of moving costs scared me. I worked throughout the winter trying to make a deal with the buyer of my current space- thinking about what I would do and how I could make it work. I felt so unsure for many months- never really being told the exact price I’d be required to start paying. And always secretly hoping they would go easy on me and keep the rent close to what I’d been paying, based on the size and condition of the space. Negotiations weren’t going well and when it got down to final decision time, I decided on a whim to go check out the space that Lisa had recommended. Maybe it would help me negotiating with my current space landlord- I wanted to get a sense of other rentals in the area and thought it may help me come to terms with the inevitable higher rent at the current store. So I made an appointment with the landlord…
I remember being in a rush that morning. It seemed like so much was going on that day. I had just shot some lovely photos of a customer I’d met recently, Angela, in some new spring outfits. I had a bunch on few shipments arriving and knew it was going to be a busy day- I thought about cancelling the meeting but my partner Nikhil had come downtown for the meeting, so I rushed over to meet him. When I first walked in the space I 100% could NOT imagine GOTW there. There was a large desk taking up most of the space and then doors and rooms behind it- it seemed so disjointed to me. But then I met the landlord, and really liked his vibe. The past few months it had seemed between my old and new landlord that all I was getting was confusion. A lot of empty promises and lack of communication- and it all gave me such an uneasy (and honestly, angry) attitude about the whole situation. But the landlord of this space at 221 King East just seemed so refreshing to me. After talking a bit more with him he made it clear he wanted a good tenant and someone who’s business would grow and flourish in his space. In negotiating, he was fair and honest and helped me by lowering the rent he was originally asking for and offering to do a lot of the grunt work involved with prepping the space for me. And there was something inside me that knew I wanted to work with someone who respected me as a small business owner and believed in my shop. After thinking it over for a while, I decided to make a pros and cons list- believe it or not this was the first time in my life I’ve actually done that!
The pros were a plenty- great landlord, bigger space, not too far from my current space. The biggest con was just my fear that a move would disrupt the evolution of GOTW. Everything has been going so well and the past couple years especially have seen this shop growing even more. What if I move and people can’t find me? Or what if there was a certain magic in the current space that I won’t be able to recreate. But then I thought about my vision and how often I wished I had more space, and just longed for a change. Something to get me charged up for the next six years! When talking to friends and mentors- everyone reminded me that I’ve wanted more space for a while and that the magic isn’t just within that one space. I thought more about it and realized the magic is all of you! It’s all of the moments we share within these four walls. And that magic will go anywhere! So once I put that fear behind me, it was full steam ahead. I signed a lease with the new landlord, gave my notice at the current space, and then had a private cry fest (a mix of happy and sad tears)!
After the freaked-out tears, I started to get to work on how I’d make the new space work for me! I thought about the things I love most about my current space and what I’ll be sad to leave behind. The biggest thing for me is my arched ceiling. It was the thing that drew me to the space from the very beginning. Remembering this also brought back how scary the 181 King St East space was to me six years ago. It had been most recently a tattoo shop and had a big desk and was broken up into different rooms. It also seemed impossible to imagine- but look where it brought me! So that was a comforting memory. Anyways, I wanted to reference the curve of my 181 King ceiling in some way at my new space. There will be a few little nods to id- stay tuned! I also am very attached to the vintage wallpapers I found and installed in my changerooms. Sadly, I can’t fully move them over- BUT my goal is to somehow trim off pieces of them that I can repurpose into something else at the new space. The print in the right changeroom (what I call the “good” changeroom) is so iconic and has been the background of so many images through the years. To ease the pain a bit, I went on a quest for new vintage wallpaper. It isn’t easy to find but after months of searching thrift stores, ebay and kjiji, I finally found two prints (one per new changeroom) that I’m super excited about! I can’t wait for you to see them. One really cool process has also been picking a floor for the new space. I love the original hardwood floors at 181- I uncovered them when I first moved in, and my mom and I stained them ourselves! But- they are SO INCREDIBLY HARD to keep clean (so many cracks for dust to get trapped inside) and they are in need of some serious TLC. I wanted to pick a new floor in either a light shade or a fun colour. I went down a real rabbit hole of alternative flooring options- and felt like I’d work all day and then spend my evening on my computer looing things up endlessly. Believe it or not, inspiration came from an unlikely place; schools and hospitals! I found some companies who made bright tile flooring- and if it was suitable for those types of buildings, so I knew it would be good for commercial. I went so back and forth on colour choice, but then it wasn’t until I went to Stradwick’s on the Mountain that I final found it. The guy helping me, Sam, showed me some amazingly unique colours and patterns and I feel in love with a vinyl tile designed by Karim Rashid for the company Tarkett. It’s got a 1950’s vibe to it with an aqua blue base and orange speckles. It actually has made its debut on instagram already- serving as the backdrop for some photos of accessories. I can’t wait to see it as a whole entire floor!
Decisions are still being made every day on the design- and I’m so happy that now you all know and I can start posting the daily happenings of the new space! It’s still got a ways to go but yesterday was the first day I really FELT it. It’s real! And it’s happening! So mark your calendars- our last day at 181 King East will be Saturday June 22nd. We are going to have a BLOW OUT SALE! I have SO MUCH STUFF I’ve been saving for a big blowout. Past season things, some of my own vintage doodads, display items, and the deals are going to be wacko! All the funds made at the blow-out sale will go directly to us making the new space as cute as can be! Then we will be closed from June 23 until the first week of July while we move everything over and set up the space. And of course there will be celebrations once we reopen!
This has been a pretty long post- but it’s been so nice to be able to write about the journey to the new space, and to share it with you all. I’m scared, yes. It’s a big change and I’ll have be on top of making sure everyone finds the new space (my biggest fear is someone missing the announcements, and going to 181 and thinking we closed forever). My rent is going up a significant amount so I will have to work extra hard to ensure we always have new and exciting items for you all, get a handle on our online store and grow that, and try to minimize my expenses wherever I can. But ultimately- I’M SO EXCITED! I really want this and I want a bigger and better space so I can grow things and continue serving you all- you have no idea how much your support has meant to me over the years. Yes I do this because it makes me happy and I love it, but if it wasn’t for my amazing customers I probably (most definitely) would have given up years ago. The positives definitely outweigh the hard times and I know this is what I’m meant to be doing. New space means more awesome products, more awesome events and more space to do cartwheels!!!
Stay tuned for all updates and hope to see you one last time at 181- there’s four more shopping weeks to go! And then after that- see you just a hop, skip, and jump away, down the street at the brand new Girl on the Wing at 221 King St East!
A heartfelt tale Whitney! It was lovely to see you today. Bonne chance!
I LOVE YOUR AUTHENTIC HEART, WHITNEY MCMEEKIN. Can’t wait to see you crush this.
I just wanted to say Congrats. It’s a long hard journey for small business women. You are doing the right thing. I’ve never met you but I send people to you all the time. Good luck with the move, I think it’s more muscle that you will need but luck helps as well. Keep doing our city proud Boss Girl on a Wing.
I will watch the posts and progression.