White Elephant - Westdale Village

White Elephant is putting down roots in Hamilton’s Westdale Village neighbourhood, with the opening of a second storefront. When owners Hollie and Jane first opened White Elephant in October of 2008, they set out to create a local shop that was reflective of their personal tastes and styles.

The shop's offering has evolved over the years. From carefully curated vintage to Canadian-made clothing and handcrafted accessories and paper-goods, you'll find unique goods for everyone and all occasions. I visited Hollie and Jane on the opening day of their new location to talk about how the second shop came to be.

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What was your vision when you opened the first White Elephant shop? How has it evolved over the years?
We were much younger when we started the first White Elephant, so our shop was a little different from what you see today. Our product line has changed a little over the years, but we have always carried work from independent artists and makers. We think that our merchandising style and aesthetic were always present, although they have matured and refined with age as well. Growing up, we both dreamed of having a cute little store, so that's basically what our vision has always been!

You chose Westdale as the location for your second storefront. What do you love about this part of Hamilton? Who are your neighbours?
Westdale has many beautiful old homes with lots of character, streets lined with mature trees, and the vibrant life of a neighbourhood next to a university. We have some great neighbours. Bare Wax Bar is beautiful. The Casual Gourmet is our favourite kitchen store in the city. Delirious has incredible burgers. Westdale Theatre is a gem within the city. It's also a neighbourhood full of businesses that have been around since we were kids, so we're very excited and humbled to be a part of this community.

What sets your shop and product selection apart from others?
We work with individual makers, and have a strong focus on Canadian made items. We try and source items that are unique, make great gifts, and are made in small batches. We choose clothing pieces that have classic cuts and timeless appeal, so that you can wear them year after year. 

Can you share a few of your favorite items?
Right now we're both really loving leather bags from Eleven Thirty, ceramic necklaces by Lauren Winter, and pretty much anything that Canadian clothing designer Valerie Dumaine is producing right now.  Our fall clothing will start arriving in the next few weeks, so of course we're really excited about that too.

What do you love most about owning your own business?
The freedom that it gives us. Although we are always working, we can work however we prefer to work. Working with a longtime friend and paying yourself in clothing and jewelry are pretty good perks too.

What are your favourite memories as a shop-owner from over the years?
This is a tough one! One of the things that constantly blows our minds while running a business is our "twin brain". We're always sending each other the exact same texts and emails at the exact same time, or buying the same gift for each other.  The other night in the middle of shop renovation week, Jane was falling asleep when she suddenly realized our cash desk was going to be too small to fold and wrap up clothing on. She turned to her partner and told him what she just realized, and then said "I guarantee Hollie is going to realize this tonight too". Sure enough, when Jane picked Hollie up in the morning it was the first thing Hollie said to her. Hollie had made the same realization while falling asleep herself.

Through owning the store we met another amazing duo - Katie and Regine behind Victoire in Ottawa (and now Toronto!) - who have become kind of our mentors and have been incredible cheerleaders. We're blown away with how often we show signs of twin brain with them as well. We have a lot of favourite memories with these girls, and it's been really encouraging to be able to share all the ups and downs of running a retail shop with another set of business savvy women. 

Any advice for those aspiring to start their own business?
Our advice is almost always the same: just do it! There will always be obstacles and issues in your way, and the timing may never seem right. Rather than putting it off until "someday" just start working on it now. You'll work very hard, for maybe not a lot of pay in the beginning, but working for yourself is very rewarding at the end of the day.

Where would I find you girls on your day off?
A true, full day off in the city is rare, since it's hard to shut our brains off from working, but Hollie would probably be in her backyard garden or on a bike ride, and Jane might be on a hike with her dog in the woods or in her studio working on her jewelry line. We may even be together at a flea market somewhere.

Describe Hamilton in three words.
Ambitious, hard-working, supportive

White Elephant was the first shop we ever featured on the blog over four years ago. So this post is really special to me. It shows how much the city has grown and the support and love the community has for small businesses. Congratulations, Hollie and Jane, on your second location. I can't wait to see what you girls do next!

White Elephant
1032 King Street West
Hamilton, Ontario
L8S 1L5
905-393-5980