642 Queen St. W., 416-786-3337, brika.com
Jen Lee Koss and Kena Paranjape
We have probably more than 100 artisans featured in our store but are constantly bringing in new artisans. We cover all gifting categories; we have jewellery, accessories, art prints, home decor items such as ceramics and pillows and a selection of baby gifts. There are also artisans that we work with that do exclusive products for us that you wouldn't find anywhere else. People are constantly coming to visit us now that we have a shop and bringing us samples, which is amazing.
The first time Kena and I met we instantly saw that we could do something amazing and entrepreneurial together. We started online nearly three years ago as an e-commerce player. We did a pop-up pretty early on at Hudson Bay and the experience was very indicative of the fact that people fell in love with the whole ambience and the crafts, which is what we're trying to do. We told ourselves that we should really put a stake in the ground. We're based here, we started here and we want to be a part of this community. We had been looking up and down Queen Street for a little while, and then one day there was a space available and it was as if all the stars aligned; we were the first and last people shown the space. We feel the products speak for themselves which is why our store decor is mainly white.
We saw an amazing group of highly talented artisans that were creating high quality, super creative products, but had a hard time reaching a wider audience that would appreciate what they do. While they might have their traditional strategies of going to a craft fair, there's a whole world of other customers that they're not reaching that way and we really felt there was a way to elevate craft and bring it to customers that would appreciate it. Allowing artisans to grow their businesses was really the impetus for starting Brika. Even in our store, when you walk in, there are pictures of the artisans and their quotes about living your passion and turning what you love to do into how you live. We're very focused on telling the stories of not only the products, but also the stories of the people behind the products.
This painted rope basket that was made exclusively for us by an incredible artisan named Gemma Patford from Australia. Gemma experiments with homemade goods from her home studio and regularly collaborates with local creatives. ($60 U.S. on brika.com)
This interview has been edited and condensed.