Serving Dorchester, Belmont, Thorndale, Thamesford, Putnam, Crampton, Avon, Harrietsville-Mossley and surrounding area

Mother and daughter open

unique consignment store

Signpost photo by Wendy Spence
Holly Antoine and her mother Amanda Drabick pose for a picture at their new venture, Gracie’s Place on Dundas Street in Thames Centre, which opened on Thursday.

by Wendy Spence

     It was fitting that a business run by two, strong, dynamic, driven women opened on International Women’s Day. Holly Antoine and mother Amanda Drabick, are the ladies behind Gracie’s Place, located at the former Carolinian Winery location on Dundas Street. The name pays homage to Antoine’s great-great aunt Gracie who was the centre of the family. She, along with her grandmother, mother and daughter, share the middle name Grace.
     “She would have loved this,” Antoine said of the business’ namesake. Her great-great aunt’s name also graces the Grace Donnelly Women’s Health Pavilion at the Victoria Campus of LHSC Children’s Hospital in London.
     Gracie’s Place is a unique take on a consignment store, showcasing the work of 36 small business artisans, including some from Thames Centre. Some of the products available include home decor items, jewelry, beauty products and food items.
     Antoine, who also does work in marketing, offers Facebook live segments highlighting products and videos to add value for the aristisans. “That’s one thing that sets us apart from other flea markets and consignment stores. We’re fully invested.”
     Antoine’s goal was to create a community. Her store features small local artisans offering items of value; not what is typically found in flea market or consignment stores “We’re developing a brand, not just a bunch of tables.” Antoine said what they’ve created is a “totally different and unique type of environment.”
     She wanted to provide a diverse selection with not too much of one type of item. The main focus is on home decor, so there are four or five artisans in that category. Antoine and Drabick took a lot of effort and time looking into the social media presence of the artisans to select good quality products from hard-working people – down to how they tag and market their items. Drabick explained that it’s hard for artisans to get value out of handmade items because materials are costly and they take a lot of time to create.
     Most artisans are trying to supplement their income and have young children “Women are really struggling now to be with their children,” said Drabick. That’s one of the reasons her daughter changed the direction of her career as a dental assistant and became a do-it-yourselfer.
     Artisans dropped items off and the mother and daughter came up with creative ways to display them. “I wanted it to flow,” Drabick explained. The artisans were blown away with the results. Items from one person aren’t all necessarily grouped together; instead things are categorized by themes. Do-it-yourself (DIY) classes will be held in the loft area, hosted by Antoine and some of the artisans. The Makers’ Society is a special group under the Gracie’s Place brand (Makers Society @Gracie’s Place on Facebook).
     One of the artisans makes products out of remnants from Canadian flags. She used to make flags for the Canadian government and now gets scraps that can’t be used for flags and repurposes them as bags, etc. “It’s stories like that that make us unique,” said Antoine, proudly.
     Artisans sign a contract with no specific time frame to keep their products in store. If it’s not working out, they are asked to give 30 day’s notice so the business owners can source another. Gracie’s Place gets 25 per cent commission plus a monthly fee. They invested in a detailed database so the artisans know exactly what items have been sold so they can keep track and bring in more stock when necessary.
     “I really want to work with them and I want them to be successful here. I’m almost like their own administrative assistant,” explained Antoine. “It’s just another way we’re working for them.”
     She has a young family and is busy at home as well, but that doesn’t deter the Dorchester native. “This is my dream and I’m going to work very hard for it. I can never guarantee success. I’m driven; I’m passionate. When I see something I want, I go for it. I will work tirelessly.”
     Antoine started her DIY journey by making signs in her basement four years ago. Drabick taught baking for 10 years at Thames Valley secondary school and it is anticipated that her culinary skills will enhance the offerings at the store.
     The original Gracie’s Place was located in a small retail space in Thamesford.
     Antoine drove by the former Carolinian Winery location every day on her way to the shop from London. “I never thought this would be a possibility.” When she did check into opening a new larger location there, everything fell into place within two weeks. Antoine said that the gorgeous building had to be something spectacular and she had a sense of connection as soon as she walked in to the space, which had everything they needed.
     The same day they got the keys during the last week of February, Antoine posted on Facebook that they were looking for artisans and got responses from more than 200 people. “That was kind of a nice blessing. We weren’t expecting that.” Four or five people stopped by every day while they were getting ready to open to see what was going on, which helped generate a lot of excitement, according to Antoine.
     Gracie’s Place, at 4823 Dundas Street, is open seven days a week – Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The mother and daughter had an overwhelming response on opening day with a steady stream of people checking out the new business venture. Get connected on Facebook with both the Gracie’s Place and Makers Society @ Gracie’s Place pages.
     Family is very important to the ladies. Antoine’s two sisters will be involved in the business. One is already doing DIY videos. Drabick, who used to have a flower shop in Ingersoll, said that all of her kids are assertive and highly motivated. “They’re all boss at whatever they do.”

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