Stockist Spotlight: Merge, Tofino
GETTING TO KNOW OUR STOCKISTS
Maker’s Magazine is always finding new places to hang. Issue 2: The Morning is patiently waiting to be picked off the shelves of small shops run by people with big dreams - individuals who have diligently carved a path of their own - dreamers with stories worth sharing. In an effort to get to know the awesome people & shops stocking Maker’s Magazine, we’ve launched a Stockist Spotlight Series on the blog.
In today’s installment of Stockist Spotlight we’re ‘swinging by’ Merge. Merge is a shop & studio concept in Tofino, BC, selling finely curated handmade goods, and also serving as the workspace for co-owners Laurie and Victoria, who each run separate small businesses too! They stock products that are crafted with care: high quality, thoughtful detailing, and a warm aesthetic. In addition to stocking pottery, apothecary, apparel and illustrations in the shop, Merge opened up their sunroom as a popup feature, currently selling succulents and houseplants as a collaboration with Rook & Rose, a floral boutique in Victoria, BC. Packed with diversity but still built on that small town community feel, these ladies have created an awesome platform not only for themselves, but for the local artisans around them and internationally.
What’s the story behind Merge?
Merge kind of started by accident! We were both living on our own at the time, working as artisans out of our small cabins and working full time jobs. When both of our crafts started to pick up and get a bit busier, we were both in positions to find new workspaces and after a few discussions about looking for our own space, our current building popped up for lease. This little blue building, located in the heart of Tofino, had been empty for 4 years before we decided to take on the project of many months of renovations.
It wasn’t an easy decision though. All of a sudden we had 2 rents to pay, 2 insurance bills, and not to mention we live in a seasonal town. How are we going to make enough money to sustain a workspace?
Once the ball started rolling we decided that we would not only use this as our studio but also our storefront. After many more meetings of dreaming and planning, we decided we could also carry the works of other artisans. Using social media and online marketplaces like Etsy, we sourced all of our favorite picks and figured, if we were extremely organized and disciplined with our system, and if we can build trust with fellow makers from all over the world, we could really make consignment work.
This was a great option for us, who at the time were two young artisans who didn’t have huge savings or trust funds to fall back on. It has been an amazing system for us, especially living in a seasonal town, where sales are very unpredictable. If we don’t have a lot of foot traffic in a day, that’s alright because we don’t have an overhead of inventory bills and we spend the day making our products which we make money from later on. It is a crazy amount of work to own a shop almost completely on consignment, but we are very dedicated and passionate about what we’re doing and we think it really shows.
You’re both creative rockstars; not only do you co-own Merge, but you each have your own small businesses. Can you tell us about them?
Victoria: Laundry Day is inspired by the guilty pleasures and fashion faux pas. I love using pastels and contrasting colours mixed with cheeky sayings and illustrations. We produce a line of pins, patches, scrunchies and more. I love the movement of pins and patches because it is a creative way to turn your artwork into something a bit more tangible and that really excites me!
Laurie: I often find myself being inspired by cheeky or inspiring quotes for drawing. I also am, for an undefined reason, really attracted to drawing women with unusual beauty details. I love drawing flower bearded women or women with monobrows. I just think everyone can be so beautiful by accepting who they are, even with an uncommon feature, it’s just the beauty of nature. Surfing and flowers are always a big inspiration for me also. I don’t know most of the flowers names though haha.
Seasoned in starting up various small businesses, what advice can you offer to creatives that are interested in taking their craft to full-time?
If we can give any advice to anyone who is considering taking the plunge:
Jump In. There is never the “perfect time” to jump in and take a risk to do what you love. There will always be excuses and obstacles but you have to just ignore the part of you that is holding you back to really go for it. Victoria had a minor panic attack the day before we signed the lease to begin Merge. The next day she was shaking when she had to sign the papers. In hindsight, it was the best decision she ever made.
Be Patient (yet persistent). It is really important to be patient. We wanted everything to be perfect at first but our biggest lesson was that everything takes time. Whether that may be getting your renovations done by a certain date or having your business cards to look a certain way. Things won’t always go as planned or according to your schedule, but be persistent and they will come around.
Separate your Finances. We both still work part-time jobs on the side. Not because we have to but because it really helps separate your personal income with your “entrepreneurial” income and it also helps take your brain away from the business from time to time. Not to mention, it just gives a bit more of a sense of security when you are just starting up.
Make sure you have a solid support system. Friends and family really will help you get through the stressful times.
Make it work for YOU. We chose to start off our business on consignment. It isn’t conventional, and it isn’t easy but it works for us and that’s what is important.
What has been the most rewarding part of owning a shop/studio?
The most rewarding part of owning our own studio/store is that we are able to do what we love every day. Meeting the customers, and being able to shift their mindset about buying handmade really gives us a sense of gratitude. Selling our own products directly has led us to become confident and inspired more than ever to pursue larger projects and really put ourselves out there. To be able to do what we love and inspire our customers, community and fellow makers has been an amazing experience and we can’t wait to see what comes next.
Shop the goods, meet the peeps:
MERGE | 305B Campbell Street, Tofino, BC