Going from clicks to bricks, a small décor shop finds a receptive audience
Photo: Jennifer Lofthouse
JENNIFER LOFTHOUSE SUMS up her personal style mantra with the word “comfy,” so when opening her own homegoods retail shop downtown, she naturally knew what the focus would be.
“Comfy-cozy is our style. If you had this one core thing and all these things spinning out of it, cozy would be at the centre,” Lofthouse says. “You light the candles, get your slippers on—it just feels like that much better a day off with those little extra pieces.”
It will be two years this April that Lofthouse—along with her husband, Jesse—opened Lofthouse Living at 171 Queens Avenue, just east of Richmond Street. The shop grew out of a lifestyle blog she had launched while living in Winnipeg, one that featured local shops, as she’d always been fascinated with people willing to put everything on the line to follow their dreams and launch their own businesses.
Lofthouse, now a mother of two, carried the blog with her to London after moving here to study fashion merchandising at Fanshawe College.
It took some time, but her blog started to gain traction in London. Lofthouse soon started to develop a following on Instagram, and then started selling the occasional piece online as well.
“It was day to night. As much as we sold some things online, it wasn’t a gradual build up to what we’re doing now. It was just jumping into the deep end and praying” —Jennifer Lofthouse
In addition to her time at Fanshawe, Lofthouse began to increase her retail knowledge by working at Richmond Row clothing shop, Saffron Road. In fact, she remains employed there today.
That might have been the end of the tale had long-time Richmond Row business owner, David E. White, not approached her about opening her own business in a vacant space next to his own downtown menswear and personal grooming shop.
It might be an understatement to say Lofthouse needed convincing. After all, she knew there was a huge difference between selling items online and jumping into the bricks-and-mortar retail world.
“It was day to night. As much as we sold some things online, it wasn’t a gradual build up to what we’re doing now. It was just jumping into the deep end and praying,” she says. “I think we had to learn a lot. I don’t know about the business world in the sense of textbooks, but I know we didn’t go beyond our means and we were very creative to start.”
Lofthouse has described the store—somewhat tongue-in-cheek—as offering “everything from greeting cards to coffee tables.”
She calls it a lifestyle boutique, but not it any pretentious way. Instead, the shop is designed to supply people with fashionable home décor items for day-to-day living, while adding the smart and stylish embellishments people are looking to find.
Lofthouse credits her early success to the lessons learned at both Fanshawe and Saffron Road.
She is quick to add, however, that her measure of success isn’t simply quantified on a balance sheet. While she could always be “a couple million dollars richer,” Lofthouse says the passion for what she’s doing provides just as much incentive to come into work each day.
“It does come down to numbers at some point,” she reasons. “I would say we’re doing well in our first couple years, better than I thought we might be, but I always say aim for the stars. This is a dream for me. It gives me purpose. If any of my friends were to come in, they would say this is just like the inside of Jen’s mind. That’s something we’re very proud of; it’s very authentic to us.” Sean Meyer