Welcome to the Grey Rock blog! We’ll be using this space to help keep our customers in the know about the store, our clothes, our suppliers, our community-- as well as anything else that piques our interest and we think you’ll appreciate. To kick things off, the social media team chatted with Lynda Baker, owner of Grey Rock, to find out more about her and what’s getting her excited these days at the shop.
What led you to owning your own store? How did you get started with Grey Rock?
Well, Grey Rock was a pre-existing store; it celebrated its 5th birthday around the time I purchased it. I always wanted to work for myself but I never really knew what I wanted to do. I’ve done retail. I‘ve done bookkeeping. I’ve worked in a tea shop. I’ve black smithed. I’ve worked as a welder. Right before I bought Grey Rock, I was working in bookkeeping.
But for me, it started to come together around the time when I was helping my daughter plan her wedding. We were working with a lot of female, downtown business owners. I loved the experience of working with them and loved the idea of doing something like what they were doing-- working with customers and helping bring their vision to reality.
Right after that, Grey Rock came up for sale. So in a way, it was fortuitous. It found me at a time when I was unhappy with my employment situation. All of that led me to where I am now.
What do you love about retail?
I love working with the customers, building a connection to members of the community, and getting to be a small part of making a decision that they feel good about.
I get guys coming in who are buying something to wear to their casual wedding, or people choosing clothes to wear in family photos. I love getting to know what people are looking for and why. It almost brings tears to my eyes, but it means so much that my customers enjoy their time in the store and these clothes are a little part of these meaningful memories for them. I feel honoured that I get to be a part of that experience. And now I do have tears in my eyes! It’s just really special.
What do you want customers to know about your store?
I’m always listening to what customers are asking for. I take notes and keep these inquiries in mind when I’m ordering. Just because I don’t have it now, doesn’t mean I won’t bring it in for you. I work hard to ask suppliers the right questions, to find those ethically produced garments that make my customers feel fantastic. I add new brands -- not lightly-- but because they offer something my customers are asking for.
For anyone new to the store, I want them to know that we’re a friendly shop and there is no pressure to exclusively wear clothes that have a defined ethical mandate. If you’re purchasing something because you just love it and you’re excited about how it looks, that’s great! Every little bit helps but I would never want anyone to feel pressured about their choices.
Why did you choose to focus on eco-conscious clothing?
Grey Rock had a really loyal clientele and that eco-conscious mandate was there before I bought it. It was a leap of faith for me, taking over this store, but it was exciting to work in a shop that had these values. It’s been so rewarding to learn about sustainable principles and to run a business that prioritizes supporting those principles.
Our customers are conscious consumers that want to look great and feel great about the purchases they make. They care about supporting local and businesses that make positive changes. Of course I want to help them and provide what they’re looking for, and I like that I can do that in a way that makes a bigger-picture difference.
How do you choose which brands and products to sell?
If I’m looking at a new brand, I always look first and foremost into the worker conditions and ensuring fair labour conditions. Those brands which prioritize fair worker conditions typically also offer textile certifications and when those factors are in place, the quality generally goes up.
I always look for simple garments that aren’t too trendy because I don’t want it to go out of style. I want my customers to be able to wear these clothes for years.
What's your go-to outfit for fall/winter?
I actually have a pretty simple style. I can usually be found in a pair of jeans and a sweater, sometimes a t-shirt and a cardigan. I’m dressed up if I’m wearing a dress or pair of pants. I like to keep it simple and comfortable.
What are a few of your favourite things in the shop right now.
2. Men’s flannel shirts- we’ve got some great patterns
3. Anything by ArmedAngels- a new brand I brought in just this spring. It’s a European brand. I love every single thing they make and I wish I could have one of everything.
4. The last collection of my kantha throws -- they’re these beautiful one-of-a-kind throws made out of repurposed vintage sari cloth.
What do you love about Guelph?Guelph such a great community. We moved to Guelph seven years ago. I’m originally from Alberta. I love the history and the vibrancy of Guelph’s downtown. We have great restaurants, independent shops and a very engaged community. Add things like the speed river, the park and the walking trails and it all adds up to a well-rounded community for me to work and play in. I live and work downtown. I love that I can go out for meals and browse in shops and go out for walks and see people that you know. It’s a small community. The people here are great.
Thank you, Lynda!