PROFILE: Peggy Bakker is the woman behind Third World Bazaar — Ottawa’s original seasonal pop-up shop

The Third World Bazaar runs for 8 weekends only, each Friday, Saturda,y and Sunday from Oct. 4 through Nov. 24 (it is also open on Thanksgiving Monday).

Having a business that’s open for only a few weekends each year would spell financial ruin for most people, but Peggy Bakker finds freedom in her unconventional business. “We just have that short window to make our income for the year,” she explains. “People can’t believe we’re only open for eight weekends.”

The Third World Bazaar operates out of a barn just outside Manotick. Photography by Justin Van Leeuwen

Three decades ago, Bakker’s brother, Paul Gervan, launched the original Third World Bazaar in the Kingston area. Travelling overseas spawned the idea of bringing decorative items back to Canada — fine wooden carvings, delicate silver jewellery, exotic clothing — items that were unlikely to be found on this side of the world. He test-piloted his then radical idea, and it turned into a 22-year business. But in 2004, Gervan wanted to step back to enjoy his retirement years. Enter Peggy.

“I really wanted to get into a small business,” explains Peggy, who had left the workforce to stay home with her two kids, Case and Anneka. “I was familiar with Paul’s business, as we used to go down during his sale to lend a hand, and I’d also been on a couple buying trips with him.” Her family was all grown up, so she was looking to work but also wanted flexibility and freedom. Her desire coincided with her brother’s retirement and led to a natural transition that resulted in her taking over the bazaar and relocating it to the Ottawa area.

In a stroke of luck, it happened that Peggy’s parents-in-law had a barn outside Manotick that was “just sitting there.” Peggy and her husband, Dick, checked out the property, took a deep breath, and made the leap. And so, in her late 40s, Peggy re-entered the workforce on her own terms. Dick followed a few years later, leaving his high-tech job to join the family business full-time.

It’s equal parts passion and faith that keeps them moving forward. Their passion is for travel and people (the couple goes on buying trips throughout the year to source new products and they’re still buying from some of the same producers her brother bought from over 30 years ago). “We practise a fair-trade model, and we pay people their fair asking price,” Peggy reassures. “We don’t haggle like people might do on their vacation.” Their faith is that each year, with nine months of planning and buying and only eight weekends of business, they will make enough.

“It is stressful,” Peggy says. “But people come from all over Ontario, they’ve really responded positively to the bazaar. We’re in our mid-50s and still have years to go.”