Updated: Nov 29, 2019
There is a place. I made it with my own imagination. My own initiative. My own money. My own two hands. She is the place of firsts, lasts and every important moment in between.
She is retail business called ZÖE Shoes + Objects. She is a lifestyle store that specializes in shoes and objects located in a quaint little city of two people per square kilometer. My business is in the heart of its customer, in a downtown that takes 20 minutes to walk in any direction.
February 1, 2016 I walked into a door formerly known as "Zoe's Boutique" knowing nothing about this business. In fact, I didn't even know how to run a point of sale machine. I had this idea that she was worth the risk because she had always been my store, and I believed in what she stood for. She is the place that people come to when something important is happening in their lives. A wedding. A funeral. A good day. A new job. A bad day. A bad boss. A divorce . . . A dream . . . A place to imagine.
I had a plan to take her into the new world and to expand her reach to the world outside of the city. Her name was updated to ZÖE, a subtle change that would embody both her legacy and memory, but also appeal to a next generation of customers. The shoe line was curated to include a mix of premium and accessible internationally known brands. On the objects side of the business, the focus was to offer pieces of original design with a focus on independents. The shoppe's look and feel was updated to create an inviting gallery style setting.
In 2017, we launched a fully integrated brick and mortar online and social media platform consisting of www.zoesshoes.com, www.instagram.com/zoesshoes_shop and https://www.facebook.com/Zoesshoesyqr/.
ZÖE is located in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, in a city of 232,000 people, in a province of 1.2 million.
Saskatchewan is a Prairie Province located in Canada. It is the seventh biggest province as far as area is concerned and the sixth biggest regarding population with a population density of about 2 people per square kilometer. The capital of the province is Regina, or, in other words, a second-biggest city. Regina is the business and social focal point of the southern part of the province of Saskatchewan.
To put that in perspective Vancouver, British Columbia's population density is 5,249 persons per square kilometer. The city is relied upon to proceed with its growth as indicated by projections from Vancouver Metro. The Metro evaluates that the city will develop to 765,000 by the year of 2041. They likewise venture that the Vancouver metro region will almost touch the figure of 3.5 million by 2041.
When people from other centres learn that my shoppe is in Regina, they ask how it survives there. ZÖE is in downtown Regina, I tell them, which is a walkable in any direction for a maximum of 20 minutes from any point. Outside my door, 30,000 people come to work every day in the surrounding corporations, banks and government offices, with an income of $50,000 to $250,000. All of them walking and working. ZÖE is surrounded by parking, and in fact is chicly located at 1928 12th Avenue, in a building that is actually a parkade. So it stands to reason that a shoe store that embodies the quality and experience of a shoppe in a large centre would attract customers who had left for a time, as well as invite new customers to our door.
Visitors to our city also come to our shoppe, and they comment that it looks like it could be in any city, like New York, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver . . . and then they ask - 'is there enough people in Regina who can appreciate this?' I reply, unequivocally - 'yes.'
When I entered the fashion retail business I could see that the retail industry was too commoditized and that there is a need and indeed a desire for a new shopping experience that brings the community together. That's been my every day job. To create a haven for people, and to create an opportunity for independent design to be supported.
But our quaint little city is no longer the haven it once was back in Zoe's hay day.
Like all new businesses, the road is rarely smooth and laid with gold. We face and deal with issues which are within our control. Then there are the things that are outside of our control that we can't control or even influence. We can only navigate by predicting what the signals mean, deciding what we can do to manage and execute . . . and hope that we are guessing right and that our resources are replenished at a reasonable rate to continue navigating.
Here is some food for thought on the drivers in our new world that are outside of our control and that are affecting each of us on a personal level. One is that decisions being made at the policy level are neither small business nor working class friendly. The other major driver is the shift in consumerism, which is global, not local, which means that our competitors are not the shoppe down the street, but the person wielding a smart phone in search of the perfect turquoise satin pump. Online shopping is now common place and, quite honestly, we can't compete with that because no independent business has the resources to play in that game. The yogi in me sees a third factor, which may be a derivative of the former two, which is the need to come back to community and awareness building.
I live in a quaint little city of 2 people per square kilometer. My business is in the heart of its customer, in a downtown that takes 20 minutes to walk in any direction.
I believe there is a need and indeed a desire for a new shopping experience that brings the community together. That's my vision and hopefully I have invested wisely.