The Oshawa Centre (OC) now has 48 new mini stores – all within a single store.
The Nooks, the mall’s newest retailer, houses up to four dozen different vendors selling a variety of handmade and vintage items – including skin care, jewellery, clothing, candles and food.
According to Colleen Imrie, founder of The Nooks, the business model is based on giving entrepreneurs a retail space which helps them grow a presence. Vendors can rent out a “nook” in the store to sell their products, which are usually handmade items.
The Nooks was founded in 2015 after Imrie opened up a furniture consignment store in Toronto to sell her own products as well as those made by other entrepreneurs.
“I was getting a lot of artisans asking if they could sell their works in my shop. But recognizing that the consignment model wasn’t strong for handmade items, I immediately saw an opportunity to transform my store to offer more of a rent-based, membership-based revenue model,” says Imrie.
Vendors get to keep 100 per cent of profits by paying a monthly membership fee – ranging from $95-$450.
“The great thing is they don’t have to be here,” she says.
“A lot of people that pursue these businesses have a full-time job…they can’t afford to be at a craft show on the weekend. So this is a high quality retail presence without having to be the one selling it.”
Cathy Sak, an Oshawa-based owner of a homemade biscotti business called ‘Ibakeit’, signed up for a membership with The Nooks after the OC’s Circa 905 closed down.
Much like many of The Nooks’ newest vendors, Sak used to regularly sell her biscotti at Circa 905, which was a pop-up location at the mall for local businesses.
“Circa 905 was just two or three artisans trying to promote their business. But this is a one-stop shop,” says Sak.
“You get to have a presence in a store where someone can pick up your product at all times,” she says. “You’re sharing with 48 other vendors and everyone is promoting so now you have 48 more people promoting your business as well.”
The Nooks not only provides a retail space for budding entrepreneurs, but also helps them with a business program called nookSTART, developed to “support and accelerate” small businesses in retail.
The entrepreneur also hosts an annual music festival called nookFEST, along with regular “maker meetups” of vendors who make homemade items. The music festival has been held in Toronto for the past four years and takes place this year Aug. 29.
In addition, a new nookFEST will be held this year at the Oshawa Centre July 18.
“Over the course of five years, we’ve built these resources to help these handmade businesses actually thrive and be significant in what they do,” Imrie says.
“Your potential is truly endless. If you’re willing to put in the work, you will be rewarded…and that’s where the retail model comes in,” she adds. “We really are there for people that understand what it takes, or at least want to learn.”
The OC is The Nooks’ fifth location, after Toronto, Port Hope, Muskoka and Kingston.
The business recently launched an online store on Feb. 14, making it possible to shop all brands in Canada under The Nooks platform, regardless of location or in-store availability.