In years past, the economy of small communities was, by and large, driven by local businesses.
Hardware stores and grocery stores were run by familiar faces and everyone called each other by their first name.
Over the decades, big box stores and retailers have overtaken mom and pop shops by offering affordable and convenient prices. Slowly, but surely, local businesses bowed to their larger counterparts.
But not all.
Housed in a quaint boutique on Central Avenue, Sarah Gerylo brings back a space to shop for local produce in Ste Anne.
The walls of Maison Mabel are filled with handmade items from artisans in southern Manitoba; while she sells her own rope products like baskets adorned with pom poms that make them an on-trend storage item or hangers to store her favorite plant, scrunchies, pottery, skincare and other items gifts from local vendors occupy the rest of the shop.
Gerylo, who tends to the store alone on Tuesday morning, recalls the beginnings of her journey many years ago.
It was 2016 and Gerylo, pregnant with twins and creative by nature, began working with various mediums to create handmade objects to unwind. Equipped with her mother’s old Singer sewing machine, she experimented until rope became her material of choice.
Fast forward to the birth of her daughters, she spent her free time honing her craft. Thus was born his own company, Little Love Home.
She followed the moves of most who find their creative niche and launched an online store in tandem with a personal blog to sell her handmade baskets and plant hangers. From there, she entered the Winnipeg market circuit and formed relationships to sell her products through other local vendors.
Then in 2020, the pandemic hit and social isolation drove shoppers to online stores. Soon after, orders were pouring in.
“I felt bad because there was this horrible thing going on in the world, but I was enjoying it,” she said.
After moving to the Ste Anne area in 2021, the idea of opening her own boutique stuck with her after dipping her toes into selling bricks and mortar in Winnipeg. Soon an opportunity presented itself in town and things moved quickly.
While Little Love Home proved profitable online and in pop-up stores, Gerylo, now 27, felt she was taking a risk to open a business that would offer not just her products, but those of others who created in the region. However, she was confident in the community’s embrace of local produce at their convenience.
The store’s success so far testifies to the desire for local shops to return to rural areas.
“You know when you buy from them they get a big chunk of money to help their family or grow their business, that’s really powerful,” she said.
“I’m thrilled to support them and then it supports me, the company and hopefully our city.”
Not only is Maison Mabel a destination for those looking to support local makers, it uses the boutique’s backroom as a workspace equipped with an industrial-grade sewing machine – instead of hanging out on its old machine for 25 minutes to sew a basket that she can run through dozens of them in an hour.
Gerylo said the benefit of surrounding herself with local produce is that it encourages her to try new designs and techniques that she wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
“If you don’t create, you don’t grow,” she said.
When she’s not busy shopping, dreaming up a new product, or working to fulfill wholesale and online orders, Gerylo is busy scheduling workshops to bring local makers to her customers. . After her first macrame workshop drew a crowd, ideas for future collaborations started pouring in.
Partnerships are further testament to the alliance that Gerylo believes is strong in the maker community.
“We all want other people to succeed,” she said.
Gerylo further says that while people love bargains when shopping at big box stores, the story behind a local product lasts beyond a few dollars saved and she sees her generation slowly returning to that state of affairs. ‘mind.
“I think people need connection more than ever, and if that translates to something you bought that was handmade by a real person in your community, it kind of gives you that dose .”