Who: Colleen Ramage, founder of Philistine
What: Clothing and lifestyle shop for men and women
Where: Toronto, Canada
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started and what you’re all about?
I met my business partner Aaron while we were working at a t-shirt shop in 2006. We initially bonded over our love of local music and vintage clothing – before long we were taking road trips together to find better quality and lower priced used clothing to wear. Our friends noticed that we always had awesome vintage finds, so we started bringing cool stuff back from our trips in order to sell it and pay for our gas. From there the idea grew until we were running a full eBay store. Later on we moved to the online marketplace Etsy, and in 2010 we took out a bank loan and opened our first brick and mortar store in Parkdale! Our first spot was only 300 square feet, but we started added new clothing and accessories to the inventory and before we knew it we had a strong following of loyal customers. In 2014 we moved to our current location, a 2000 square foot space that’s more centrally located. Since then, we’ve picked up even more brands, opened an independent online store, and further expanded our stock to include apothecary, newsstand, and housewares.
What’s your local community like?
There are tons of independent business in our local community, which makes for an awesome support system – automatic camaraderie by virtue of being ‘indie’. In terms of the local pedestrian community, it’s a very mixed bag. We’re in the downtown vicinity so there’s everyone from students, to young parents, to Mental Health Hospital day patients, to art and fashion aficionados – but that’s part of what we’re trying to show at the store. A ‘Philistine’ is someone who is opposed to the idea of culture, so we’re making fun of that notion by suggesting that culture is all things, and inescapable. We pride ourselves on being price-point accessible – prices ranging from $5 for accessories to $600+ for a parka – meaning if someone likes the aesthetic of the shop, they can engage, there isn’t a restricted target audience, we are inclusive but still ‘on trend’.
What brought you to Vend and how have you found it? Would you recommend Vend to retailers like you?
We found out about Vend through a friend of ours – he had just started working for the company and gave us a presentation about what it could offer us. We were most drawn to the low expenses and overheads, and great inventory control. I would recommend Vend to retailers like us because it’s easy to grow with Vend as opposed to launching out of the gate with a $5000 system. Pricing with other POS for starting out can be so intimidating so that was one of the big draws for us.
What does your passion come from for what you do?
I’ve worked in retail for a long time, but I think my passion comes from the idea of curating a unique space. I don’t think of Philistine as a ‘clothing store’ or ‘vintage store’, I think of it as a space where myself and my business partner can do whatever we think best reflects our culture – right now that’s mainly clothing and a peppering of everything else to round it out – but who knows what the future could bring. I think that’s exciting, terrifying, but mostly exciting.
Do you have any advice for retailers that you wish you’d known?
Oh man, I think my best advice would be just to do your own thing. There will always be TONS of people who want to tell you why your store sucks, shouldn’t exist, all the risks of being out on your own – blah blah blah – if you’re doing what you want – just tune ‘em out. Oh and always be pleasant – situations are sometimes difficult, but life is long, and everyone will remember a jerk.
What’s your best retail tale?
Anyone who deals with the public knows that things can get a little hairy at times. Once, at our old location, I locked up the store to pursue a suspected shoplifter. I found her a few blocks away at a Rexall, and confronted her. We went outside and she tried to run, so I grabbed her booster bag and ripped it out of her hands, then ran back inside the Rexall for safety. People will always say, just let the thief go, but it’s MY store – she may as well have taken my wallet. I’m glad I DID pursue her, because inside her bag she had so much stuff from all the stores on the strip, it took me over an hour to return everything I’d recovered. My adrenaline was pumping so hard – I’ll definitely never forget that day!
Want to learn more about how Vend’s POS software is helping Toronto retailers win? Get in touch with our Toronto team today!
About Reese Evans
Reese is Vend's content and education expert, making sure all retailers get access to inspiring and informative material to help grow their business. With a background in fashion retail, Reese is also founder at yessupply.co, an online community that supports creative entrepreneurs and goal-getters to own their power.