Beautiful, bustling, and full of eclectic local shops, the ByWard Market also has the reputations among locals as a bit of a tourist trap. We get it — it’s easy to ignore some of the more charming offerings in the area when you’re stuck behind the crowds at the Beaver Tails stand. But two new boutiques opened recently that will give visitors and locals alike a reason to revisit the area.
The Opening: Drake General Store
The first non-Toronto outpost of the uber-Canadian Drake General Store is located in the back of the main floor of Hudson’s Bay. It’s a big, beautiful space, chock-full of Canadiana finds from lifestyle brands like Arborist, Held In Common, and Malin & Goetz. The shop has that hipster-welcoming mix of high-end modern and rustic-chic design, and its offerings reflect the same tongue-in-cheek style: baconaise, maple-scented candles, and novelty mugs sit alongside luxury skincare and high-end sweatshirts. Tourists can pack bags full of Ottawa-themed t-shirts, gourmet Drake-branded granola, and toffees, while locals will find great gifts in handmade jewelry, coffee table books, and cocktail accoutrement.
The Backstory: The original Drake General Store opened in 2008 as a gift shop in Toronto’s hip Drake Hotel. Founders Joyce Lo and Carlo Colacci began collaborating with the Bay after selling the retailer their now-popular Caribou throws featuring the iconic Hudson Bay stripes, and the Ottawa shop is their second retail space in the Canadian department store (they’re also in the Bay’s Yonge Street location).
The Opening: Isabelle
At 238 Dalhousie St., in the former Wunderkammer space, visual artist and all-around renaissance woman Isabelle Gauvreau has opened a luxury women’s boutique featuring classic, feminine clothing and jewellery from Italian designer Sarah Pacini and French clothing outfit Saint James. She’s making the most of the small, cozy space, opening it up for an almost gallery-like feel with clean white walls and black highlights. Isabelle is decorated with Gauvreau’s own paintings; the gorgeous, textural pieces made with ink, charcoal, and gold leaf often explore the female form.
The Backstory: Gauvreau is excited to be in the ByWard Market, saying it’s where she likes to spend off time with her family and that she enjoys the eclectic mix of visitors. She’s confident that Ottawa is a good market for her decidedly European sense of style: “People in Ottawa are very international. They’re well-travelled. I’m excited to introduce even more people to these quality designers.” A personal stylist as well as an artist, Gauvreau hopes to introduce more young women to higher-quality clothing, as well.
Gauvreau says customer response has been wonderful so far, and hints at more to come: a German clothing brand next spring and more jewellery, as well as special events like wine tastings, charity jewelry sales and art shows starting this fall.