When Wendy Friedman started the first Biscuit General Store 15 years ago, she had a tiny space and an even tinier budget. After 11 years in a new, larger location in the heart of Halifax’s trendy and colourful downtown, Biscuit has become a well-known boutique favourite of residents and visitors alike.
“When we moved downtown, there was nothing down here. Now there are lots going on and we have great neighbours.” Wendy says.
Working in various fashion-industry positions (buyer, designer, etc), Wendy had always wanted to switch gears and open her own store, one that sold “lots of different things” to reflect her varied interests. She also wanted more personal connection to customers; something that she felt was missing working for a large fashion company. Currently the store carries mostly clothing and housewares (kitchen accessories, books, candles, bath products, candy, etc), but she hopes to possibly expand into furnishings and décor eventually.
The entire look of the shop and merchandise has a fun, retro, and cheeky personality. The Biscuit girl is one that wants to look on-trend, but also wants to spend her budget on unique pieces that she isn’t going to see on 100 other girls. She is funky with an interest in vintage styling and a great sense of humour.
According to Wendy, Biscuit’s biggest sellers right now are Toms shoes and brands such as Free People and French Connection. They always sell an enormous amount of sunglasses, which is interesting considering Halifax is often foggy and rainy (just goes to show that girls here are not all about raincoats, yoga pants and Ugg boots).
“There are a lot of really fashion-savvy people in Halifax!” Wendy asserts. “What I find is that they are resistant to set trends, they more follow them, but there are definitely lots of people who are aware of and into fashion”. Unfortunately there is not much of a fashion “industry” here, and therefore not a huge amount of support for local designers who wish to produce clothing and accessories on a larger scale.
For Wendy, it is the people that make it all worthwhile. Her customers are “very supportive”, and her staff are really passionate about their jobs. Many of them are students in creative programs at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (or one of the other many Universities in Halifax).
Staff are involved in making decisions, including what to buy, and Wendy teaches them product and selling knowledge. As a result, the employees at Biscuit are not only friendly, but can answer pretty much any customer question effectively. “They believe in the business, and as a result we have one of the highest employee retention rates of any business I know”, Wendy points out. Even though the fashion scene in Halifax is a lot smaller than those of Toronto or Vancouver, this is something that is sure to change over time considering the number of creative people coming and staying.
One thing that is sure not to change in Halifax is the vibrant small business scene, of which Wendy’s store is the centre. Anyone visiting the East Coast of Canada should stop in and take a giant bite out of this delicious and fresh Biscuit.
Biscuit General Store - 1661 Argyle Street, Halifax NS (902) 425-5436
www.biscuitgeneralstore.com *check out the super-cute promotional video on their homepage