October is Small Business Month! To celebrate, we are introducing numerous amazing downtown business owners all month long. We talked to each owner to learn more about their business and individual experiences making downtown a vibrant community.
Meet Metka and Michelle from Public Mercantile!
Journey to Public Mercantile
Metka and Michelle opened Public Mercantile over a year ago. Originally located on Upper Fort in a building slated for redevelopment, they recently moved to a new, permanent location on Government Street. Prior to opening the shop, Metka and Michelle worked on a project called “Talking Shop.” Leaning on the pair’s design, photography, and storytelling expertise, Talking Shop was a blog that shared the stories behind businesses during the COVID-19 Pandemic. They also worked on their boutique agency, Table Creative, and still run this business alongside their store.
Evolving Store Concepts
According to the store’s owners, the initial store concept was wellness. Metka and Michelle started by starting their own skincare line. Although they sell products beyond this category, the apothecary/wellness component of Public Mercantile remains deeply embedded in the DNA of the shop.
Metka and Michelle describe the concept of Public Mercantile as a curated general store. Michelle said: “We sell the things that we love and that we want to have in our homes. So, we bring it to the shop hoping other people will love it too!” She continues: “Most of our brands are Canadian, women-owned, small, and independent. We try to have brands that other shops don’t carry to stay as unique as possible.”
Metka adds that they typically select brands with a story. Michelle even creates cards introducing each brand and the story behind them. She also mentions that most of the products in the store are sustainable, ethically sourced, and fair trade.
“In order to have a vibrant city, you need a vibrant downtown.”
When they started to look at spaces for their shop, Metka and Michelle said there was no question it would be located downtown. As Metka said: “We want to add to the city, to the community.” Through their work on Talking Shop, both Metka and Michelle witnessed how downtown Victoria changed during the pandemic, especially seeing the windows papered up and hearing the stories of business owners. The recognized that in order for downtown to survive, we have to support our community.
Community over Competition
Metka and Michelle both love working with other shops and retailers and supporting local. They feel connected to other businesses. As they said:
“Whether it’s with Luna Collective in the market in the summer, or more events with the gallery next door (Merrick), trying to get the community together is super important to us. We are just one downtown, it’s important that we are all supporting each other. It’s not a competition, if one business does well, we all do well. It’s great when shops move nearby offering other things, so we can work together and experience synergy.”
Make sure to visit Public Mercantile at 1804 Government Street!
Thank you to Metka and Michelle for participating in Small Business Month and sharing your voice as a beloved downtown Victoria business owner! View our other blog posts for more incredible local business interviews.