Skip to content

Variety is the spice of life for local shop owner

For this week’s What’s Up Wednesday we spoke with Sarah Harrison, owner of Coriander on Hurontario Street
2019-07-08 Coriander JO-001
From left, Lianne Napasney, director of stores, Sarah Harrison, owner and Amy Landell, team leader at Coriander in Collingwood. Jessica Owen/CollingwoodToday

A local business owner is hoping to spice things up by adding a second location to her repertoire.

Sarah Harrison, owner of Coriander on Hurontario Street, is expanding to a second location across the street this fall. The expansion will see the store split into two branches: Coriander Style, which will be all women’s clothing, and Coriander Life, which will be just home and gifts.

“We were busting at the seams here,” said Sarah Harrison, owner of Coriander. “We just don’t have enough space, and it’s busy.”

“It’s a beautifully restored building. It’s 3,000 square feet, which is huge. The landlord did an amazing job of renovating. It has the original floor, brick walls and high ceilings. It’s gorgeous,” she said.

The space is big enough that Harrison is planning to incorporate a shared community space into the layout.

“Part of the store is going to be used for a sort of community hub. That’s my vision for it,” she said, adding she’d like to change what the space is used for depending on what clients want. “It may be an area where we hold pop-ups for local jewelry designers on Sundays, or we could partner with a vintage collector and we could provide an audience for it. It could be used for a book club meeting, or a poetry reading. To have a space to bring in the community for more than just shopping.”

Coriander has been in Collingwood for five years. The brand first started in Guelph, turning 19 years old last month.

“My mother was a retailer. She had seven stores when I was growing up in Toronto, so retail is in my blood,” said Harrison.

Harrison started working in the field years ago by taking on a job as a fashion wholesaler, bringing in brands from around the world to Canada. Her affinity for naming lines for spices started there.

“I did clothing out of India and that was called Cinnamon. I had a children’s line called Sugar and Spice. It was my early brand,” she said.

About 14 years ago, Harrison started to feel like she needed something new in her life, and an expansion into Collingwood seemed like the perfect fit.

“I think – like most of the people who come up here – I just fell in love with Collingwood. It feels so great to drive over the mountain. There’s something about Georgian Bay that just calls,” she said. “It’s a great place to be.”

After considering the idea of adding a Collingwood location for her Coriander brand, Harrison said she presented it to her husband, who reacted in a surprising way.

“He said, ‘Let’s do it.’And my husband never says that. He’s the voice of reason in our family,” she said with a laugh.

Harrison bounces between the two stores while her husband, who is now retired, lives in Collingwood as their home base.

“It was a huge adventure. I didn’t know what I was getting into five years ago here. Sometimes things just line up perfectly,” she said.

Harrison says when choosing what to carry in store, she is careful to not tread on the styles of other clothing stores on Hurontario Street.

“Downtown Collingwood is a fabulous retail environment and I’ve got great neighbours,” said Harrison. “I don’t want to compete with my neighbours, I want to compliment what they do. I look for stuff that’s unusual and ethically sourced.”

The clothing carried at Coriander is natural fibres, which Harrison said is important for her clientele.

“Our clothing is also more artistically driven, rather than fast fashion,” she said.

Harrison says one of the biggest challenges of having a business in Collingwood is finding good staff.

“I’ve had wonderful people work for us, but finding new people can be hard,” she said.

To try to shake things up when it comes to hiring, Harrison has been running open house job fairs at the store to try to hire a team for the second location, as opposed to posting on job boards online or elsewhere.

“They’ve been really interesting. We thought, why just just make it like speed dating, or a quick hello to really be able to assess whether it’s going to be a good fit,” she said. “Also, a lot of women don’t necessarily have a resumé or know how to write a cover letter because maybe they haven’t been in that position for a long time, but they would like to work in a store like this. We were trying to break through that.”

The next open house job fair date for Coriander is Aug. 7 from 6:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the store.

The second location of Coriander is planned to be open by September.