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Travel n Style Boutique Renovate, add Gift Shop during Pandemic

This is a Q&A interview with Travel n Style Boutique’s owner, Mary Larocque. Travel n Style Boutique is located at 550 Lansdowne St W, Unit 16/17 (Marlin Travel building).

They sell Canadian-made products including Rapz Clothing for Women, Walton Wood Farm, Barefoot Venus. They have a selection of clothing and leisurewear for all sizes, giftware, bath and body products, purses, wool capes and coats. Travel n Style Boutique also sell gift baskets and gift certificates. Private shopping parties of six can be arranged by emailing: sales@travelnstyleboutique.ca.

Where did the idea for Travel n Style Boutique come from?

Being in the travel industry for the past 36 years, I was used to adversity in the industry. When I bought my business 16 years ago, many said, “Are you sure you want to do this? Everyone is booking online.” I knew that deep in my heart I had something to offer that was much more than booking online. My business was built on exceptional customer service and relationship building. Seeing the profound effects of COVID-19 on the world and our industry, it was apparent that we needed to pivot the business in order to survive. COVID-19 was a much bigger beast and the travel industry was going to be hit hard. It is sure to be a very long road to recovery for us. 

In the summer, I decided to sell some of our travel desks and recreate our space with a full boutique filled with clothing, pajamas for the whole family, jewellery, bath and body products, wine glasses and charcuterie boards, gifts and collectibles. Our focus was on supporting Canadian suppliers and designers, local artisans and have a unique one-stop shopping experience. We offered private personal bubble shopping, customized gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, corporate gift baskets and our personal shopper service for those needing to revamp their wardrobe. 

We had Travel n Style as a small boutique in the store for the past three years, primarily for clients travelling south in the winter offering Canadian-made clothing by Rapz Leisurewear. It is a clothing line that is fabulous for travelling and easily coordinated with just a few simple pieces. Best of all it is made in Toronto and is a family-run business. 

What are your hopes for the business in the next 3 years?

I am hopeful that we will be travelling once again and when the time is right, Marlin Travel will be with you every step of the way to plan the ultimate dream vacation. In three years not only will we be the travel agency of choice but one that also has a fantastic store for customers to shop for unique items while they support local business. We will have two incredible businesses under one roof! For now, we will be expanding our products this Spring and Summer and reaching out to companies that are looking for something just a little bit different for corporate gifts for clients and employees. We will be supporting more local artisans and expanding our private shopping experiences. After all, supporting local benefits us all.  

Has it been difficult launching a new business during the pandemic?

Absolutely! With my travel business imploding, I had to trust my instincts and develop a niche business that was unique and incorporate something that I love to do, which is shopping. I like to joke that I have my black belt in shopping! I had to source out the best products that would appeal to a totally new customer base, determine who that customer might be and how to market to them the most effectively. I had to reinvent my business, make the investment and do everything possible to make it a success.  

What has the response in the community been since you launched?

We launched October 1st, just in time for holiday shopping. Getting the word out was the biggest challenge as we didn’t want to be just another online retailer. We didn’t have unlimited resources, so we decided to promote offline shopping, shop local, shop Canadian. Customers loved it and we saw many come in time and time again. Our private bubble shopping events really were a hit and we had so much fun meeting new people in the community. Being in business in Peterborough for a very long time, many know Marlin Travel as a trusted agency in the community. Having a boutique, we had to recreate ourselves and develop a new brand: Marlin Travel and Travel n Style Boutique; One compliments the other. Our customers really loved the new look and realized that now they have two wonderful experiences in one store.   

What is your favourite thing about living and working in Peterborough & the Kawarthas?

I have been in Peterborough for over 40 years and to me, it’s home. I have enjoyed having my family here and building a successful business here. I have spent many years supporting local events, volunteering on numerous committees and being an active member in Peterborough and the Kawarthas. I believe wholeheartedly that you must support the community that supports your business. I have truly been fortunate in so many ways to have the success that I have had because of community support. Even though this year has been extremely challenging and stressful, I continue to look forward to the future.  Supporting local will be critical for our small businesses and the economic recovery for our city and county. We can do this together, I’m sure of it.     

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