Mararamiro, a home decor store based in Toronto and owned by a married couple, is going to be celebrating its third anniversary and has opened its first retail store recently at the end of September. This is in addition to its shoppable studio space downtown.
The brand first opened in 2020, but instead of having a traditional retail store, the founders opened a shoppable studio space – the first and only shoppable photography studio in Canada.
“During the pandemic, there were many lockdowns and a lot of retail stores were not allowed to open physically, so we decided to go with the concept operation, what we call a shoppable studio. I think the timing worked well in that it aligned with the time when a lot of marketers were turning to influencers for content creation,” says Terence Kwaramba, the co-owner of Mararamiro. “ It kind of allowed us to marry the idea of selling home decor online, but having our studio as a showman, a backdrop for many content creators and it was a creative way for us to market and get the word out about our home decor to the world.”
The studio is located in Leslieville in the East End of Toronto and can be booked by the community and brands who are looking for a unique space for photography. All the furniture in the 700 square foot studio is from Mararamiro and has been used by influencers, e-commerce brands, and for personal use such as family portraits, bridal photos, proposals, engagements, and even weddings. Tessier says larger brands they have hosted include Knix and Province of Canada.
“It was a really uncertain time to open a traditional brick and mortar retail store. So we really were trying to get creative. We were a new company and did not have an online following at the time, but we knew we wanted to launch online first and so we needed to get creative in terms of marketing and how to be discovered without a brick and mortar,” says Tanya Tessier, the founder of Mararamiro.
Tessier said during lockdowns there was a lot of demand for photography, creating websites, e-commerce platforms, and brands were relying on influencer marketing. They recognized a gap in the city and created a safe space where brands, content creators, and even larger companies could go for their photography needs. The idea came through traveling to Copenhagen a few years back when they experienced a shoppable apartment.
“We found it resonated with a lot of people because they were looking for content that looked more authentic in a way and our studio provided that. And so for the past few years, we have been pushing the concept of a shoppable studio. But we think that now with us turning a corner of the pandemic, we feel the time is now to really follow the true dream that we have had – to establish some retail presence and see where that takes us,” says Kwaramba.
Retail Space Has Opened
The first retail space for Mararamiro is located at 2090 Dundas Street West in Toronto, close to Roncesvalles. The space is just under 1000 square feet and consumers can expect “a really curated experience that goes beyond traditional retail.”
Consumers can find a variety of products through its e-commerce platform, studio, and in the new location such as decor, furniture, rugs, apothecary, and more. Products at Mararamiro are handpicked items from around the world.
“I know everybody claims to do this, but we offer something that is quite different and we don’t see that a lot in Toronto. There are lots of mass produced items out there and we want to focus on authenticity and craftsmanship, and we need a stage for smaller brands and artists. We are looking at going beyond just retail and thinking more as retail with purpose,” says Kwaramba.
Each product comes with a rich history such as where it came from, who made it, and information about the product.
“We just launched new carpets and rugs for example that are made in Ethiopia. When somebody purchases that, you get a video of the process of the people actually making your rug, not just the stock video – but people making your rug and you also get a personalized note from the makers in Ethiopia,” says Kwaramba.
As for future plans, the brand is aiming to grow its online offerings and to solidify its presence in Toronto under the brick and mortar. As for long-term goals – Tessier and Kwaramba say they would like to explore opening in multiple locations in Toronto or into other Canadian cities.
Tessier comes from a background in home decor as she worked as a creative director and a product development manager and throughout the years, fell in love with decor.
“I spent the majority of my career traveling the globe, sourcing, and developing products for other major retailers. I fell in love with the whole process and the stories behind all the products and then at the beginning of the pandemic, Terrence and I were actually on a belated honeymoon in Bali and that is when I learned the art company I worked for was closing their Canadian operations and I lost my job, There was a lot of reflecting, but it has always been my dream to have my own store so that is where it was born,” says Tessier.
The name Mararamiro Tessier says is borrowed from the Shona language of Zimbabwe, which is where Kwaramba is from and means “a manner of living that mirrors one’s values and attitudes,” says Tessier. Which Tessier says matches Mararamiro’s concept.
“We did not want to be just a store, but we really wanted to be a space for people who appreciate the quality over quantity, authenticity in the products they purchase, and people who really want to put forth a thoughtful approach to creating their living spaces,” says Tessier.
Additional Photos from Mararamiro’s Dundas Street Retail Storefront