Colleen Imrie, owner and founder of “business accelerator” the Nooks, opened the first Nooks store, Design Nook, two years ago. There are now three locations along the Danforth, each with a specific aesthetic to cater to small businesses in a particular way.
On Saturday, April 14, Imrie hosted the Nooks’ “Spring into Fashion Pop Up” event in the third Nook space, called Studio by The Nooks.
The event gave business owners the chance to meet and interact with consumers and create an in-person connection with them. The event let them explain who they are and what their brand is, and tell the story behind their products.
“There’s a voice to all the products in our store,” Imrie said. “And there’s a reason why, you know, that necklace with a pin-up girl is there. It’s more than it’s trending or it’s cool or beautiful. You know the maker’s right there, so you’re able to talk to her and really learn why that is that. And then you actually fall in love more with that than the physical piece. And that’s the beauty of handmade.”
This is what Imrie envisioned for the Nooks and what business owners such as Christyne Gauthier and Rebecca Greenstein, of Spiro Spero Designs, are thankful for.
They create whimsical and fun jewelry that pays homage to their love of vintage images. They have created charms with classic pin-up models — a statement piece fashioned from Lucite.
“We like things that are different and a little crazy and offbeat, and that’s hard to find,” Gauthier said. “So, we made something we wanted to wear ourselves, essentially.”
Added Greenstein, “We couldn’t believe, when we would wear it around, people would go, ‘Wait a minute. I really like what you’re doing,’ and we found our cult, our niche market.”
The Nooks hosts many events, including the nookFEST, which showcases handmade crafts and small businesses alongside entertainment, live music and food. This is where Gauthier first learned about the Nooks.
Greenstein appreciates how the Nooks provides the opportunity for “grassroots local markets and [to] look the customer in the eye” to sell their product.
In the internet age, it’s not often that business owners get the chance to do that for potential buyers, Greenstein said.
One of the locations in The Nooks General Store has a specific area “in the back of that space [that] is open for the public to hang out, meet with a client, read a book, do a craft circle.”
The first store that opened, called the DesignNook, “has 91 artists in that location, and everyone there gets their own nook so they can really brand themselves, essentially in like a micro-store front,” Imrie said.
As an entrepreneur and artist herself, Imrie wanted to create a space to support artisan business owners, and give them an opportunity to grow and create relationships with potential clients.
“I’ve always been cheering for the underdog,” Imrie said. “I was really involved in my early younger days and into my early twenties with volunteering and giving my time, giving people ideas.”
Imrie’s supportive personality is a defining point in The Nooks’ brand, something that resonates with Greenstein.
“They seem to have a very personal interest in having you succeed,” she said. “There’s a very personal touch to it. They don’t just help you with the marketing. They just seem very personally supportive, and you can see with the vendors and the community, it’s very important.”
Sameera Hemmat is the co-owner of Jammy & Co, a resort wear and pyjama line based in Vancouver. She recently brought the brand to Toronto.
The Nooks has allowed her to feel welcome in the community, understand the Toronto market better, and has advertised her business.
“It all comes down to basically empowering and supporting each other because we’re all local entrepreneurs,” Hemmat said. “Like I don’t have a brick-and-mortar store, [but] The Nooks gives me that platform for people to actually touch and feel the product.”
The Nooks will hold its next event, Momma’s Market, at 1912 Danforth Ave., May 5.