Hoping to make it easier to buy unique, handmade gifts, that are not found in regular gift shops, Tiffany Armitage opened the Ravens Room to give people a place to find them. At the same time, she wants to provide local makers with a venue where they can sell their work.
It was not until October 2018, however, that Armitage had enough confidence to quit her job and open her own store.
“I managed the Twisted goods store at Southcentre,” Armitage says. “I kind of just held off leaving and was like ‘no, let’s get a better idea of what I want to do and exactly what I want to do with it.’”
After working there for over 10 years, Armitage found she had no more opportunity for growth, giving her the push she needed.
“I think you just get to the point where you have such a good, clear, concise [idea] of what you want it’s like OK, let’s just go for it and then take a leap of faith and hope that it works,” she says.
Armitage opened online Nov. 1, 2018. The store on 17th Avenue opened the following year, on October 1st.
The store offers a variety of merchandise that’s a little off the beaten retail path.
“It’s home décor and gift-oriented,” Armitage says. “I like those unique gifts, the one-of-a-kind. The one-offs that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Her love for these unique gifts was the inspiration for the store.
“Armitage’s passion really comes out when she starts talking about wanting to support local and support the artistic side of local,” Michelle Atkinson, maker of Jewelnotes — products which the Ravens Room carries — says.
Despite being a small, local business, Armitage still found her store gaining popularity through local markets and media.
“The beauty of this community is that word spreads,” she says. “I go to a lot of markets here locally because I source a lot of local. So just being able to spread the word and kind of get their support as well is always helpful.”
Armitage says that reaching out to others and social media played a big part in gaining popularity.
Nicole Kushniryk is the maker of ‘After the Rain YYC’, a company that makes Canadian Wool products and handmade jewellery to be purchased at Ravens Room, she and Armitage met on Instagram. “We started following each other and she seemed to have a really cool philosophy for her store with supporting local.”
While competing with online markets like the Ravens Room, Armitage aims to compliment them instead while still trying to give her customers extra little touches to bring the physical store as much popularity as her online store.
“A lot of the consignment items aren’t on my online stores so that’s kind of a way for me to direct people back into the store physically,” she says.
Armitage also offers free pickup and delivery in Calgary, with free shipping over $75 as additional incentive to shop locally.
Locally, hand-crafted items are the focus of the Ravens Room because Armitage loves the perfectly imperfect items.
“You’re going to have those people that absolutely love locally-made and they want those things to help promote their own community and start understanding that the money that goes into Canadian-made or local-made stays in its community. It doesn’t go very much farther.”
Armitage focuses on growing this support system and continuing interactions with customers and makers by working in the store every day it is open.
“I think if you can support local, that just brings us back down to that basic human level. It creates those connections. You end up missing that when you’re buying from big buck stores,” Atkinson says. “If you can create those human connections I think that's really important.”
Using social media to connect the community by featuring certain makers each week, helps her continue the cycle of support.
“I’ll feature anyone that I currently carry in the store or have carried in the past,” Armitage says about her ‘feature Friday’s’ on her Instagram page. “I want to promote them and help their brand grow — because as their brand grows, my company grows as well.”
Eventually, she hopes to open one or two more stores throughout Canada but plans to focus on slow growth.
“It’s more focused on continuing to get your brands together and have your makers be featured and acknowledged for their work that they do,” she says. “And then making sure that people that are coming in are enjoying the experience and having fun and finding new and unique things that they haven’t seen before.”
- By Shannon Oxley