Sometimes the answer to what you’re seeking can be right on your doorstep – or just next door.
That’s the case with the latest venture organized by Five Corners Cafe’s Catherine Honeywell and daughter Jess.
Called The Shop Next Door, it is – literally – right next door to the popular and iconic café, itself a fixture on the White Rock scene, albeit under various names and ownership, since the 1950s.
The new store, at 1187 Johnston Rd., is an arts and gift gallery with a difference.
Soft-opened on Dec. 1 – just in time for the Christmas trade – it offers an eclectic selection of gift ideas in everything from original art in oils and acrylics, to jewelry, up-cycled clothing, artistically-decorated wearables, re-worked and re-imagined home decor, and re-purposed vintage collectibles.
Venturing outside of usual business models, it represents a collaboration of artists and artisans who share in the rent, upkeep and staffing of the store, but also benefit from the space to show off their very different wares, and to sell them, minus the usual commission structure.
“We think of it as a co-op,” said Jess, who has taken the lead on the business end of the operation, particularly with regard to setting up the systems to handle sales processing and cataloguing of merchandise.
It’s primarily Catherine’s and Jess’ venture, but typically for the Honeywells, Jess’ siblings, Nate and Shannon, and dad, Rice, have been around to lend support and a helping hand during the lead-up to the opening.
The common denominator to the wide variety of pieces on offer at The Shop Next Door is that most are one-of-a-kind items, and bear the personal stamp of an artist or creative talent.
“We didn’t want anything mass-produced,” Jess said. “We wanted things that people have made, or made their own.”
For years now, under her line, Re-souled, Catherine has been creating new furniture and decor items by re-finishing old pieces or reworking collectibles, and also creating charming new decorative pieces such as her most recent line of painted cement mushrooms and toadstools.
“There’s a whole army of things I do,” she said. “Pretty much whatever pops into your head.”
Jess’ own artistic creativity has flowered recently with her oil portraits and studies, as well as designing printed clothing and tote bags, all of which she is marketing under the brand Not 2 Bad.
“Because all I do is make things, I have so many things I want to sell – but nowhere to put them,” she said, adding that her only gallery experience to date has been participating in a few art shows in Vancouver.
As they suspected, there are many local artists and artisans in the same boat – as evidenced by the keen local interest shown in The Shop Next Door as soon as they mentioned the concept to friends and regular customers at the café.
Driving the venture was the discovery that the space next door to Five Corners Cafe was available for lease again.
“We had the idea a couple of years ago but it just wasn’t the right time,” Catherine said. “But when the space came on the market again, we decided to go for it.”
“If not now, then when?” said Jess.
“We wanted to do something, not just for ourselves, but for the community,” Catherine added.
“We wanted it to be available for other artisans who wanted the space, and could all share the expense of having their goods out there; promoting one another and supporting one another.
“The objective is for everybody to take part of the store and pay a little to the store to keep it going. But there are no commissions on sales – their success is their success.”
In addition to the Honeywells, first participants in The Shop Next Door include painters George MacRae, Adam Lipschultz and Sylvie Pelletier (also known as Esspe, she additionally sells scarves and cushions decorated with her designs); jeweller Genisea Rush; sewing and quilting artisan Gaity Simpson; and painter-photographer and up-cycled vintage clothing and accessories creator Kat Siemens.
Others from even further afield are likely to be added, the Honeywells said.
“I’ve just put it on Instagram (theshop.nextdoor) and three people have responded in the last 24 hours,” Jess said.
For customers, the Honeywells note, the advantage is that there is something in the store to suit every budget, from fridge magnets at $3 and up. Many pieces of original art are in smaller sizes, too, providing more-affordable-than-usual options.
Adding to the appeal of the store for shoppers and casual browsers, there is likely to be a continuous turnover of goods from week to week, depending on the needs and availability of individual participants, Catherine said.
“Some might want to be in for only a few months, while others might be there longer. There are opportunities to participate for one month, or six, or nine – or a full year.”
Despite the proximity, The Shop Next Door is a completely separate operation from Five Corners Cafe, the Honeywells note – but one they hope will add to the increasingly arts-friendly ambience of the Five Corners neighbourhood.
“The café we can do in our sleep, but this one we stay up nights thinking about,” Catherine said.
“It’s a new, exciting adventure for us.”