When the business and arts communities work together, everybody wins. Incorporating local arts into your business model not only makes it easier for creators to continue doing what they love, it also helps you stand out from the crowd, while helping to inspire and light that creative spark within your own team. Perhaps nobody knows this better than Civic Duty and Relic Supply, located in downtown St. John’s.
While the two shops have been in business for a relatively short period (Civic Duty for the past two years and Relic Supply for the past six months), their impact upon the local arts scene is undeniable. By using local photographers instead of stock images, holding pop-up gallery shows and art sales in store, and offering product development support to artists interested in selling their wares, they’ve fully embraced what it means to support local.
We recently chatted with Rachel Healey, Jill of all trades at Civic Duty and Relic Supply, about their locally-inspired model.
Business & Arts NL: Civic Duty is known for its socially-conscious and locally-inspired business model. Can you tell me a bit more about that, and how the business works with local artists?
Rachel Healey: Other than providing a retail outlet for many local artisans, Civic Duty is founded on collaboration with artists. One project that we are particularly excited about is our Christmas collaboration with a company called BB Bush. The company director and owner, Steph Reid, is a Newfoundlander who has travelled across Canada working in retail. She recently created a website where you can purchase her hand drawn designs.
Steph donates a portion of her sales to women’s reproductive charities. That concept really encapsulates what we are striving towards at Civic Duty. We invited Steph to be a part of our art show, Art Attack, this past August and decided that we wanted to continue working together. We will be launching a BB Bush and Civic Duty collaboration on crew neck sweaters and t-shirts, and have chosen a local charity for which Civic Duty will be donating all the profits.
In terms of brand development, we will be working with Steph in the new year in hopes of expanding and printing her collection on Canadian basics as opposed to sourcing them overseas.
Business & Arts NL: And does Relic Supply follow the same model?
RH: Relic Supply is distinct from Civic Duty. Relic has been in operation since June 2017, operating out of 181 Water Street. Relic is directly influenced by boardsports – skateboard, snowboard and surf culture. Jon (Loder) and myself both have worked in the boardsports industry for almost a decade. I have never been drawn to the sports themselves, but the culture and art that surround them is what has inspired me for so long. Photography, videography and the design of the clothing and equipment for these sports is, to me, the most interesting aspect.
Having worked in the industry for so long, we are lucky to be connected to many individuals who are not only passionate about the sports themselves, but about the surrounding art. A past colleague of ours, Ethan Murphy, is currently studying Photography at Ryerson. When we opened the store, instead of relying on company-provided artwork and point of sale, we instead purchased photographs that Ethan had taken of local skateboarders and snowboarders and turned them into large-scale displays. Ethan proposed the idea for the art show, Art Attack, after facing some difficulties getting into local galleries. We used our community room and hosted half a dozen local photographers who were selling their prints. This created an energetic and fun atmosphere where local artists could network and sell their products. For most of the participants, this was the first time they were given the opportunity to sell their work in a formal setting. We hope to have similar events every month that will feature photography, woodworking, and baking, among other types of craftsmanship.
Business & Arts NL: Obviously, the support you’ve shown local artists helps them. Are there any ways in which Civic Duty/Relic has also benefited?
RH: Despite the obvious ways Civic Duty and Relic have benefited by the arts, the most important thing the arts community does for us as a business is separate us from large-scale retailers. It has become increasingly difficult to compete with mainstream stores that have far larger budgets for both merchandise and advertising. Most recently, Amazon and online retailers have become increasingly popular. One way we are working to combat this is by creating unique and positive retail experiences.
One event that we have coming up is with Jaimie Feener, owner and operator of Feener and Thread. I met Jaimie when I purchased one of her pieces of hand embroidery. This Christmas, we have decided to work with Jaimie on our own collection of cross stitches to sell at Civic Duty. After our initial meeting to discuss product, Jaimie and I came up with an idea for an event that we will be running (likely after Christmas). At Relic, we will be hosting a Feener Pop Up where we will be offering free hand embroidery into any of our denim jeans or jackets with purchase. This not only drives sales, but offers a unique shopping experience for the customer and an outlet for Jaimie as an artist to gain exposure and hopefully, repeat customers.
On Thursday, December 14, there will be a pop up shop at Relic with Best Kind Bakeshoppe They will be selling cupcakes at a pop up party from 2pm-7pm. They are fabulous entrepreneurs who are really making an impact locally and otherwise.
We invite any local artists who feel they have any ideas on how to use our community room, or have a product they feel would be a good fit, to come visit us at Civic Duty.