Reflecting on this past year has stirred up a variety of emotions, particularly while looking back at the plans that never were. Many of those plans transformed into the unexpected and some even the inspirational, yet a handful have not been looked back on again until now, leaving a tenderness for what never was. 2020 was a year I never anticipated, and many lessons have come out of it both professionally and personally. I am sharing them with you hoping that it connects us further during this challenging experience and to give you a peek behind the curtain of what it has been like to try and run a business during a pandemic.
2020 started with a big decision I had been ruminating for some time: I decided not to renew the lease of my brick and mortar store. After seven years of having a retail location, I would be closing at the end of May to operate online, expand my wholesale business and transform the retail experience to seasonal pop-ups. I spent January & February planning the announcements, events and celebrations for this monumental decision all of which would commence in April. But when Toronto went into lockdown mid March and the temporary store closure turned permanent, I never got my proper goodbye and I was heartbroken. The customers and friends that I spent seven years getting to know would never get to say goodbye to the physical space I had poured my heart and soul into.
Feeling quite unsettled about the uncertainty of the entire experience during the initial lockdown in March, I had a desire to make myself of service to others. I kept asking myself, what can I do to help with what I have? During a time that quite suddenly felt isolating, I thought I’d try to help people feel more connected to those they love. I put together a Gift Collection suggesting beautiful products I had available as gifts, while offering to specially wrap each gift including a handwritten note with a custom message. This campaign was so warmly received, it filled me with such joy and purpose connecting you to one another. Gifts were being sent for every special occasion imaginable such as a retirement, housewarming, birthday, the arrival of a new baby, an engagement or marriage announcement.
As previously mentioned, I had big celebrations in mind for closing the brick and mortar location of CAMBIE, including an outdoor flea market in our garden space and an evening soiree featuring a silent auction to bid off some of the custom shop fixtures. With the unexpected early closing of the store, I transitioned both of these ideas to an online experience and I created the CAMBIE Mercado for the month of May, featuring vintage selections and a virtual silent auction for some of the most beloved store fixtures. Although these events did not go as I had initially imagined, by offering curb-side pick-ups, I was able to see many familiar faces and these objects that meant so much to me going to such beautiful new homes.
My production in Peru has been greatly affected since the beginning of the pandemic. There has been a shortage of yarn and of course, the importance of protecting the health and well-being of each individual I work with. I received one shipment just prior to the lockdown which contained a special collection of blankets for the upcoming wedding season. But since social gatherings would be most affected by the lockdown, I knew the wedding season wouldn’t look the same this year, and the production that I had initiated for a summer collection had to be cancelled before it really even began. The three blankets designed for the wedding collection turned into the three-part summer collection with amazing creative assistance by longtime CAMBIE collaborator, Melissa Cutone. The challenge of reimagining an existing collection became such a fun creative exercise and possibly the biggest pivot of plans of the year, resulting in The Verano Collection featuring the campaigns titled Tide, Shell and Beam.
The Verano Collection: TIDE
The Verano Collection: SHELL
The Verano Collection: BEAM
The only other shipment from Peru that we were able to receive over the entire year arrived just in time for the holiday season, yet was carefully designed to include a collection that could've been used for a future season in case it didn’t arrive in time. I had learned by then to let go of any expectation but secretly kept my fingers crossed for the 4 months leading up to its arrival! How do you plan for anything when you don’t know what to expect? A real practice which I still haven’t mastered is staying present and going with the flow, although this year has taught me to slow down and find more acceptance.
These production delays forced me to be creative with my product offerings and I began sourcing vintage items again, a long-time passion of mine and how I began CAMBIE almost 10 years ago. My first retail experience as my own brand was selling vintage at flea markets, pieces I had collected from a summer spent on the east coast of Canada. One of my first loves and reasons why I started CAMBIE, here are a few of my personal favourite vintage pieces from 2020:
I have taken some time over the first couple of weeks of 2021 to reflect back on last year and feel humbled by what I learned in 2020. As a business owner, you are often always looking ahead and planning the next task, which became almost impossible last year. One of the biggest realizations I had this year is that everything I need I already have, it surrounds me or is within me. I think of the CAMBIE community, my loyal customers, my colleagues, my followers, and my friends. I traditionally celebrate the anniversary of when I first opened my brick and mortar shop in 2013 but the truth is, this year will mark a decade since CAMBIE came to fruition. A decade of hard work, a labour of love, really showed itself to me over 2020 and I am bursting with gratitude. The strength of my community helped me get through this past year, both professionally and personally.
A special collection in collaboration with Picot Collective.
Joni Mitchell, shop dog and Instagram influencer ;)
Bittersweet goodbyes, packing up the CAMBIE storefront.
Behind the scenes shooting the TIDE collection.
Behind the scenes shooting the SHELL collection.
Behind the scenes shooting the BEAM collection.
The Holiday Collection, featuring the Fir Blanket & the Grey Glass Bud Vase.
Joni and I working from home, truly CAMBIE at Home.
During the first few years of owning the shop, the term ‘the CAMBIE way’ was created and often referred to whenever things seemed to perfectly fall into place. It’s a term I shared with you when I announced the store closing in 2020 and a term I remind myself of constantly. Even if I don’t know how or when things will fall into place, they always do. As I look ahead I remind myself to keep working hard, to keep my heart filled with love and gratitude while taking it all one day at a time, and wait and see what 2021 has in store.
As always, thank you for your continued support and for following along, I hope you enjoyed reading this piece. Wishing you and yours good health and well-being for 2021. Take care of one another!
- Camille, Founder of CAMBIE