Between all the festivities of Christmas and then swooping into the new year, this little pocket of hang time is where we sometimes get the chance to look back and look ahead.
We’ve been at this business for five years now, and it doesn’t get easier. The more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know. But looking back on it all, it’s not really about how much you’ve learned, although there is that – it’s a year of all those moments spent stacking boxes of stationery, getting to know more and more of our customers as friends, sipping tea while your shop cat lurks around the door, raising our family in the midst of it all.
Coming out of the holidays is the perfect time for this: when we’ve seen all of the faces of folks who have been walked through so many of our doors, all of the shipments coming in and out, and of course, seeing our incredible team in action, and relying on them to keep our shops humming, working six or seven days a week, coming early, staying late, problem solving around out of stock items and carrying us all the way to Christmas Eve, senses of humour to get us through the crush with a laugh and some treats to share when the doors close. It is hard to find the right people, and our team is our family: the arms that literally hold our babies.
What a year it’s been. We’ve packed up one shop and opened up two more. Caleb started kindergarten, Naomi turned one. We said good bye to a few members of team and welcomed a few more. We sold a few pens, broke a few ink bottles, filled a few notebooks worth of tester scribbles. Chicken found a few new hiding places. We stumbled and flailed through some city hall red tape. It seems a never ending learning curve to exist and survive as a small business.
It’s been a year full of the craziest ups and downs, and it’s with some disbelief and relief that we’re all still standing at the end of it. Here’s a look back.
These posts are the absolute worst because I spend hours and hours down various rabbit holes of phones and memory cards and different drives. And yet, it’s somehow possibly the most important thing to look back on and remember the highs and the lows.
I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a few people who bring up the highs and celebrate successes with us, the team and the family, and yet this year was bittersweet for me.
Leaving our Carlaw shop and home was not necessarily by choice but also not necessarily bad timing, for our business and our family, especially with Naomi arriving on the scene and our loft-style apartment behind the shop.
It was also the place, though, where Caleb took his first steps, where we wandered the halls, where we grew our team, where Chicken came home as a kitten. Coming from 906 Dundas West, a truly tiny space, Carlaw gave us room to grow in a way we could’ve only imagined. We had three beautiful, glorious, challenging years, full of changing seasons and new growth, and then we packed up our boxes and open the doors to a new chapter.
Moving into the main shop was a celebration of a new home and all the excitement that comes with a new space. The studio shop was another story entirely, but with its own triumph as we opened its doors in the fall. With Caleb starting kindergarten this past September as well, it was truly a season of settling into new routines. And I’m still finding my groove.
What does the year ahead hold? Who am I to plan ahead for a year – and yet here I am planning. We are hoping for a year to really find our place and to get back into shape. The two moves and renovations were grueling and tiring and costly, and also meant a lot of readjusting. Working on setting up a few new structures and systems to keep things flowing, trying to balance inventory with new growth, touching up a few rough edges, literally and metaphorically, in our shops.
But maybe not all of the rough edges, because here we are, with some of the grit added in for charm. We wouldn’t be where we are without some of the bumps in the road, and this year has certainly given us a few of those.
At the end of this year, we are standing and looking back, beyond incredibly grateful to be on this adventure with the people beside and around us, our community and our team.
But – the best is yet to come.