Kelly Grillanda grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Sudbury and after a successful career with some national retailers she returned home to realize her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
Grillanda has opened Dep de Vie, which is a lifestyle boutique featuring carefully chosen and thoughtfully made goods that elevate your life. With its curated selection of clothing, jewelry, self-care and wellness products, the retailer connects customers to the Canadian makers people love.
The retailer’s brand name stems from ‘department of life’.
“When I think about all the new kinds of stores that are happening, when you go into the retail stores that are popping up, it’s not just like clothing anymore, it’s not just like jewelry,” said Grillanda, whose career included positions with Lush and Fossil.
“Now there’s all different categories and really bringing together all different aspects. To me, it’s like a department store – the new wave of department stores. It’s Dep de Vie – the Department of Life. It really suited what I wanted to do because I really wanted to start a business that helps somebody elevate their life in different ways.
“Everything that I curate is selected with the theme to elevate your life in some way. So I have clothing that’s going to help you define your style. It’s not just about buying clothing that you’re just going to wear for one season and throw away because it’s trending then and now it’s not trendy and it’s out of style. It’s about picking quality pieces that really help you define your style, things that you are going to build and collect your wardrobe with. You’re going to have it, you’re going to feel good about it and you’re going to feel good in it. That’s the aspect of defining yourself with clothing and jewelry.”
The store also has many self-care and wellness products. There are also journals and notebooks.
“I’m trying to bring together all different aspects of products that touch on different categories of wellness and wellbeing, making it easy and convenient for people who are busy these days,” added Grillanda.
The new store, in just over 1,500 square feet, is located in the south end of Sudbury in the Cedar Point Plaza. The store design and build was by Matthew Schultze of Vision Build.
One of the big things she took away from her career with national retailers was the importance of consultation and the elevated customer service.
“Getting to know your customers. Asking questions. Talking to them. Having a genuine interest in people that come in the store, people that enter into your business,” said Grillanda. “I think that has really resonated with me. Without really having a genuine conversation with people, it’s hard to determine what they’re interested in, what their needs are, what they value, what things will be purposeful for them.
“It’s not just about selling anybody anything. It’s really about making sure that whatever you’re showing to them is going to be purposeful for their needs. That’s one of the biggest things I learned working at Lush that really, really stuck with me.
“I do hope this business is successful and I’m able to grow my team and one of the things I worked on there (Lush) was being a really positive leader for the team and constantly trying to improve and elevate the experience of the staff so that they feel engaged. You can create an environment and a culture within a store that people feel part of something and included and that they’re making a difference. People can feel engaged even in a retail environment. That’s a huge challenge and something I’m really passionate about.”
Grillanda said the consumer appetite to buy local is growing these days. Part of the reason for that has been issues in the supply chain creating challenges for consumers to access some products that are made abroad.
“I think more and more people are recognizing the importance of producing within Canada or within your own community. There is a growing awareness of support local but to me it’s not only a geographical area in which you support people in your immediate vicinity or your immediate family. Obviously that’s amazing,” she said.
“But I think even more than that, it’s support your community and community could be a group of people that share the same values or passions or they are striving to achieve something that you would like to see more of in the future. With access to the internet, you could be supporting smaller, little niche groups of things that you’re really passionate about.”
Grillanda said her experience working with other bigger retail brands has helped her learn about creating systems, policies, procedures and training teams. That experience has given her the skills to be able to scale something.
“That will only come with time. I have to see if my current idea and business is successful but that’s something that I would absolutely love to do,” she said.