A love of nature and the rural lifestyle brought Christine Johnston and her partner Gary Cox to Eastern Ontario nearly 30 years ago.
For much of that time, the couple had harboured the dream of opening their own store full of interesting, unique and highly desirable collectibles and memorabilia. After Chris retired from working at the Sears Distribution Centre in Belleville, for 25 years, she got serious and turned that dream into a reality.
In March of 2015, Explorers Eco-Emporium 41 opened its doors on Highway 41 in Northbrook. The Grand Opening on May 16th, was a huge success.
“We wanted to do something along these lines to bring out our own creativity and to encourage our collector’s side. Our home is unique: we are not hoarders but we do have very unique and upscale collections. We like the interesting and the off-the-wall items, collecting and sharing such items is a lot of fun. These items have proven to be interesting to a lot of others as well. That’s why we’ve used the word Explorers in the name, as we like the hunt for these wonderful one-of-a-kinds, and we wanted others in search of similar items to have a place to find such treasures,” said Chris, who added that the store also features goods that locals, cottagers or visitors might need.
“Along with the many collectibles, we also have a good selection of what we call essentials – things that the homeowners or the vacationers would need. We have bedding, clothing and accessories, bathing suits, books, footwear and a lot of basic household items. We are always changing the inventory and adding new things based on what the customers tell us they want as well as seasonally.”
The first challenge facing the prospective business owners was securing a location. Chris and Gary live in Potter’s Settlement, just North of Tweed, close to Highway #7. They knew they wanted a location in the general area of Highway #7, preferably to the North, where they like to fish and explore in their spare time.
“We wanted to set up a shop in this general area, as we knew that it could become something unique. Just like Lennox and Addington’s history and beautiful scenery. We knew that the area needed something like this, an interesting place to visit and to shop. This area is very near to our hearts. We love it here. We love being out in the country and being outdoors fishing and hiking. When we found this location, we knew it would be perfect, as it is on Highway #41, just a little North of Highway #7. It is right in tourist country, and a very unique building being a quonset hut. Even though it is in the middle of cottage country and along a major thoroughfare, Chris said thus far about three quarters of her clientele are local folk, all of whom are very encouraging of the enterprise and many have become return customers.
“It’s an experience to shop at our store. Yes you can get basic necessities but people like to come in and look at the interesting items that we have; the memorabilia and collectibles. Chatting with us as well, about both the area and the goods that we carry,” she said, adding that they have many items that appeal to children and families at affordable prices.
“We listen and are very responsive to what our customers want in terms of necessities and the products we carry in the store. For example, people have been asking for vegetable plants so we are going to try and have a small nursery next year, with Perennials as well.”
The ‘Eco’ part of the name comes from the couple’s desire to do everything they can to make the business as environmentally-friendly as possible and create the lowest carbon footprint that they can in all facets of the operation of the enterprise.
Another of the biggest challenges for the business has been creating awareness that it is there and that it has items that cater to both local folk and visitors to Addington Highlands alike.
“We have a Facebook page, a Website, a Twitter account as well as Linked In, so we are using those avenues as much as we can to generate interests. We’re also pleased with the Ministry of Transportation’s guidance and assistance. We have asked a load of questions and everyone that we have spoken with have been very helpful”, she said.
“We have been very hands-on with everything. When I finished at Sears, I immediately started to research everything on the internet that I could soak in about running a business. That is how I came into contact with Trenval Business Development Corporation and have gained my Business Plan Certification along with Entrepreneurial Training. I have had assistance from the Lennox and Addington Economic Development office, from the Land O’ Lakes Tourism and the Addington Highlands Township office in Flinton. It definitely has been a learning process, and one of the biggest things I’ve learned was to ask questions of every one that would listen.
Chris said that word of mouth, both online and from folks just talking with one another, is going to be key in the long-term viability and sustainability of Explorers Eco-Emporium 41, which means creating a welcoming engaging, customer-friendly environment is crucial.
“We are a unique shopping experience and we want to be known as an affordable and friendly place to shop. We would like to be known as an ‘Emporium’ – a place that is a fun experience as well as a place where you can get many of the things that you need.”
For more information, visit www.explorersecoemporium41.com. The store is located at 12047 Highway 41 (east side) in Northbrook, just North of Kaladar.- See more at: http://www.yourbusinesshere.ca/index.php/la-county-store-offers-both-quirky-collectibles-needed-essentials/#sthash.ClVTfL94.dpuf
We add new wares.... daily. We are personal shoppers - We will do our best to find what you are looking for. We can wrap that special gift for you.... We can create any design for you for your Business Cards, your Christmas Cards, your T-'s and Hoodies. We can create that perfect saying to go along with your window sticker.... etc. Ideas that you might have and need assistance with to make your life a little easier ....we can help. Expanding our ideas and our business, one customer at a time. You our customers help us to grow with your ideas !