Sewing Classes at The Labour District

I set up a sign up page for sewing classes at The Labour District!

The first round of classes start in May (Sewing for Beginners) and June (Sewing Alterations, and Pattern Drafting a Skirt), and are half price at $50 for a four class course!  There’s not a lot of space, so sign up quick if you want the half price deal!


Full details can be found over on The Labour District website.

We hope to see you there!

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The Labour District Diaries: Part 4

Shortly before we moved away from Toronto, I received a good piece of advice from a store owner: rent a space that doesn’t need much work.

Once you sign the lease, you’re responsible for everything that happens inside that space, so if it needs a whole shitload of renovating, it’s coming out of your wallet.  And your wallet’s already been ransacked by insurance, hydro, and various set up fees, so you don’t want to be throwing down even more dollar bills for a drywaller and electrician.

With that piece of advice in mind, we chose a space that didn’t require too much work.  Mostly just patching up scrapes and nail holes, and a paint job.  Our place does, however, have carpet.  Yep, carpet in a retail space in Canada.  And we were told that it’d probably cost like $1400 to replace the carpet with even the cheapest tile.  So we’re living with carpet for now.

Shortly after we received our keys, we got to work.  Patching up the scrapes, waiting for them to dry, and patching a second layer where needed.

The next day, we started painting.

And painting.

And painting some more.

It’s been awhile since I painted, and I’d forgotten how tedious it can be.  Everything needs at least two layers, and we haven’t even gotten started on the accent colour!

Here’s how it looks right now:



And if you’ll notice, there’s a row of mirrors that run along the upper wall on the left side.  They also run along the back wall.  And while we’re okay with the two big mirrors that are set up, the mirrors that run along the tops of all the walls aren’t really necessary.  We’re working on a plan to fix them up and make them less obvious.  Or take them down.  Whatev.

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The Labour District Diaries: Part 3

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty.

Right after we moved to Oshawa, we took an afternoon to walk around the downtown core, and check out all the retail spaces that were up for grabs.  We had seen several of them during our research phase, posted on a few realtor websites, but we wanted to see if there were other hidden gems.

Ultimately, we chose a space that we’d already seen online.  It was affordable, right downtown, and the perfect size.


Thing is, you can’t just go into a space, throw down a cheque and walk away with the keys.  There’s a lot of paperwork that goes into renting a commercial space.

And money.  Holy shit with the money.  FYI, our rent is only about two thirds of our entire monthly costs of keeping the store open.  Keep that in mind if you plan on opening a store.

On top of the monthly rent, you also might encounter property taxes, maintenance of the property, and different types of insurance.  Some landlords include these extra costs into the rent, some landlords don’t.  The property taxes alone can cost as much as $5.50/sq ft, which can add up to an extra $320/month if you are renting a 700 sq ft space.

Also, you must have store insurance.  If some dickwad kicks in your window, or if the building catches fire, or if you get robbed, you need to be able to cover your ass.  You can go through an insurance broker, who gets paid by insurance companies to help you pick out the best plan for your needs.  You don’t have to pay the broker, and you don’t have to do the research yourself.

And then there’s hydro, heating, internet and all of that lovely junk.  And it’s common practice for that lovely junk to charge a $500 deposit, as well as a set up fee, so beware (for example, our set up fees for electricity, phone and internet are topping off at about $1300 in total).

Another puzzle you will encounter is the timing of all that paperwork.  Do you apply for the vendor’s permit before or after you get the space?  When do you need to get insurance?  When do you open a business account?

Here’s the sequence:

You need insurance in order to rent the retail space, but you have to know which space you’re renting before you get insurance because you need to answer questions about square footage and building upgrades.  This sounds convoluted, but the insurance policy gets set up really fast, and they’re familiar with last-minute deals, so you should be fine.

You need your business license and a storefront before you can open a business account with a bank.  And a GST/HST permit isn’t enough, it needs to be a full on Master Business License.  It costs $60 and you have to renew it every five years, but I think you only have to pay for it once.  And if you register online during business hours, you get your license immediately.  Cool.  But you do need a retail address in order to get your business license.  Is it getting complicated yet?

You need a business bank account in order to get a debit machine for debit and credit card transactions.  But if you don’t feel like being this official, you can use your personal bank account, and just hook yourself up with Square Register.  Square doesn’t do debit in Canada, but they’ll take all the big credit cards.

You do, however, need to know if you’ll be renting or buying your debit machine when you apply for insurance, because some insurance companies will have different premiums for debit machine renters vs buyers.  Oh, and you also need internet and a phone in order to get a debit machine.

So yeah, I guess there is some time traveling required to open a store.

Your best bet is to pick out the retail space first.  You need a business address for your business license, insurance, business banking account, and to order stock for your store.

Up next: getting your store gussied up for opening day!

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The Labour District Diaries: Part 2

Now where was I?

Oh yeah, reasearch and development.

Once we decided that we were definitely moving to Oshawa, and definitely opening our dream shop, I started looking at retail spaces in downtown Oshawa.  We needed to get an idea of what we’d be paying, what the downtown core looked like nowadays, what the competition looked like, etc.

I researched local independent shops, from Whitby to Newcastle, to see what people were selling.

I looked at craft shows, art galleries, and everything related to arts and crafts that I could find online.

I participated in a craft show at The Vault, to meet people and get a look at my soon-to-be-hood.

And my husband did the same for the skateboard side of the business.

And we did this for months.  So much of my free time went into looking at Durham Region online.  I followed dozens of Durham area Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.  I bookmarked a bunch of Durham-centric websites.

We were getting excited.

Durham Region has a healthy art scene.  There are galleries and spaces that cater to the arts, but there is also a solid grassroots movement out here to get people invested in art and culture (look at all these links).  Gone are the days where Oshawa was merely a car town.  There are two universities with campuses in Oshawa, as well as Durham College, which now offers a fine arts program.  This place is turning into another culture oriented mid-sized city like Guelph or Hamilton.  And if you Torontonians have been doing your research, you will know that many of your artists have already started jumping ship; moving out to Guelph, Hamilton, and the like, in search of more affordable, yet still arts-friendly, environments.

Everything was looking favourable.

So we started writing a business plan, we registered for GST/HST, and we packed up to move.

Coming up in The Labour District Diaries part 3: the actual move, finding a retail space, and getting the ball rolling.


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The Labour District Diaries: Part 1

As you already know, we are in the process of opening a retail store, The Labour District, in downtown Oshawa.  It’s a lot of work, and we’ve barely just begun.

I thought it’d be helpful to write down our experiences, partly for others who are interested in pursuing retail ownership, and partly so we can look back on all the hard work it took to start a storefront business.

So let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Picture it, Toronto, July 2013.

I’d just had an interesting conversation with my mother on the topic of my new marriage, and our plans for the future.  There was an offer put forth to let my husband and I move into her basement in order for us to save up for a down payment on a house.

So Mr Amie and I got to talking.  We were pretty much done with Toronto.  We were also intrigued by the opportunity of being able to save for our future.  But, without going into detail, neither of us wanted to be holding down a mortgage with our current places of employment.

Then we got to talking about our dream jobs.  I kept thinking about opening a sewing studio in Oshawa, where I could make clothing, teach sewing classes, and sell clothing & accessories made by Canadian artists.  And my husband told me about this vacant retail space in downtown Oshawa that he used to always gaze into, dreaming of running a skate shop.

Now skateboards and sewing don’t really mix.  However, when you take into account the fact that most sales in a skate shop come from the clothing and accessories, then you have the magical, workable combo of a sewing studio with a retail space.  And let’s be honest, do I really seem like the kind of gal who’s going to open one of those pristine, white-washed studios that’s choking on pennant banners and painted mason jars?  Pshht, I’d dirty that shit up so fast.


Once we’d discussed and agreed on the ramifications, we put our plan into action.

The first stage of action = research and development.

Coming up in part 2!

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Looking for Artisans!

Our retail store, The Labour District, will be up and running shortly, and we’re looking for a few local/Canadian artisans who want to sell their work on consignment in our space!

The Labour District is going to be a sewing studio with retail space located in downtown Oshawa.  Oshawa, for those of you who don’t know, has a substantial college/university population from Durham College, UOIT, and a Trent U campus.  It also has a steadily increasing population of young and established families, and the downtown core is easily accessible by public transit.

For those of you who are chosen to sell your work with us, we’ll start off on a three-ish month trial consignment deal, 50/50 split (we have plans to incorporate a wholesale agreement at some point in the future, but for now we’re just doing consignment).  The artisan covers the cost for shipment to the store, and for the return shipment of any unsold items.

We’re looking for handmade pieces in the following categories:

*Casual men’s wear

*Women’s wear (preference will be given to lines that are plus size inclusive)

*Accessories (bags, wallets, hats, belts, etc)


And we especially enjoy skillfully made upcycled creations!

The target market for our retail space is savvy art/craft/fashion fans ages 20-45.

As for price points, we’re keeping the retail prices mainly between $20-80, however we will be willing to go above $80 for certain pieces (for example, we’re willing to sell dresses priced up to $120).

If you’re interested in having your work in our store, and you think you’d be a good fit, please email us at thelabourdistrict[@] with the following info:

*Your name and business name

*A small bio (about your work, not your life story)


*5-7 pictures of the pieces you’d like to sell in our store

*The retail prices of each item

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Hey look, I can publish blog posts from my phone! 

I’m fixing up some problems that arose mysteriously with the deer head pattern.   It’ll be back on the market soon enough!

Also, one more cat shot:


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