The Shop Around the Corner: One Sixty One Artisan Market
One Sixty One Artisan Market in Hespeler Village is the title sponsor of The Holistic Parent Market. Owner Valerie Simpson is a huge supporter of local artisans, and her shop is super adorable! Here’s a little Q+A with Valerie on her shop, local business and why she’s so awesome!
1. How would you describe your store?
A curated assortment of local handmade products — unique gifts, home décor, paper goods and more! All of the artisans create their products within 161 km of the store
2. What's your background? And how did you get into retail sales?
Ha! I have done pretty much every kind of job from working at a gas station, to slinging coffee to selling hats in a mall kiosk. My main (grown up) job was in the retail home healthcare field, where I started as a shipper/receiver. I moved through various positions within the same company for almost 20 years and then to others within the industry. I ended my home healthcare career as a bookkeeper/accountant.
Thinking back, I realize that by working for others I was trying to fit a round peg into the square hole. I could never understand why I couldn’t keep focused on one job for long, it makes so much sense now that I am self employed.
I have worked in retail/customer service many times — funny enough it was my least favourite of many jobs that I had while working in home healthcare. It comes naturally to me though. I like chatting with different types of people and love showing them the unique items that we have in store and telling them about the artisan who made it.
3. What was the inspiration for the store?
When I initially wanted to open the store, I had recently been downsized from my corporate job and wanted to get away from the home healthcare industry. I wanted to do something I loved, and something more fun than what I had done for so many years. When the timing for the store didn’t work out then, I went back to work in the industry with the plan that it would be temporary just until I could open the store.
I love handmade items and the stories about how small, independent business came to be, so I wanted to create a space to share that with the community. A few months before we realized that opening the store could be a reality, I had started selling my handmade products (dog treats) in two shops similar to mine.
I realized that I am not the only one who loves unique, local handmade goods and since I was still working full time. I wanted to create a space for makers to showcase their products on a full-time basis that they did not need to be present full time. The store gives them the time to work, take care of family or grow their business in other ways. It gives the community a permanent location to purchase high quality, handmade goods.
My aunt recently told me a story about when I was in my early 20s before I was a maker or had even thought of starting a business. My sister was making covered notebooks and selling them at local craft shows, my aunt asked me why I didn’t make something to sell there too. My response was, “I don’t want to be in the craft show, I want to run it.”
4. What's been the most fun about owning a shop?
Is it bad to say that I love getting first dibs on the things as they come in? I love getting to see all the new things that the super talented makers create before anyone else!
I really love the look on customer’s faces when I can tell them the name of the person and usually a fun fact or how I know the person who made the item they are purchasing. The customers love knowing that an actual person made the item that they have selected and are giving to another person, or even keeping for themselves.
5. What's been your biggest challenge?
Balance! I’m in the shop six days a week, have my own handmade business as well as a home life. I love doing all the things which is why working for myself makes sense but its definitely a juggling act most days.
6. Why Hespeler Village?
We looked at a spot in Hespeler a couple of years ago in the dream stages of having the store and the timing wasn’t right. When we finally decided the store could be a reality, we looked everywhere but Hespeler Village!
We were concerned that the traffic in the village wouldn’t be enough to keep the store going, but after exploring other options and not getting the perfect space I realized that I should be looking in my own backyard. I’m thrilled to say the response has been fantastic and I am so happy to be a part of the up and coming businesses in the village.
7. Where do you see the shop in five years?
Besides the obvious answer of still open and thriving, I hope to be able to expand to showcase more makers in either a larger or second location.
8. Any words of advice for a maker who's looking to expand into a retail shop like yours?
Be confident in what you make and your brand. Know your products and your customers. Be prepared for busy seasons and also the not so busy seasons.