BUSINESS JOURNAL: Old Taylor’s site now a creativity co-op

The new tenants at 140 Christina St. are, from left, Nicole Brown, Kathryne Knowles, Kaitlyn Eastman, Presley Knowles and Cat Cabajar. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Four local businesses have collaborated to make downtown’s historic Taylor’s Furniture building a going concern again.

Taylor’s, an enormous three-storey retail landmark, was built in the 1920s as a grocery and liquor store and was the scene of the infamous shooting of bank robber Red Ryan.

The Taylor family opened their furniture store in the 1930s and kept it open for 78 years before it finally closed in 2010.

“I’ve been in love with this building for a long time,” says Cat Cabajar, owner of The Painted Cat, which moved into the second floor a month ago.

The Painted Cat (TPC) is a facepainting, makeup and party business that has steadily grown from a home-based business.

“I used to be across the street and I’d look over and imagine myself and my associates using this building,” she said. “It’s so rich in history and is culturally important for this community.”

Cabajar is realizing her dream of a co-operative of local creative business people renting various parts of the 22,000-square-foot building and supporting one another.

The co-op opened Sept. 4 with four enterprises. Negotiations are ongoing with others.

Cabajar is business partners with Nicole and Steve Brown and together they own Costumes Canada, which now occupies the front half of the main floor at 140 Christina St.

Costumes Canada opened across the street a year ago. The new location provides far more room for inventory and display, says Nicole Brown.

“We’ve had a very good first year,” she said. “January was our only slow month. People are renting costumes for parties, fundraisers, and barbecues, even weddings.

“This space allows us to be the store we want to be.”

Costumes Canada also offers a “Maker Space” at the back of the building that comes equipped with hand tools.  Anyone can use the work room for a $40 per month fee.

“Amazingly, we found that our rent went down when we moved in here,” said Cabajar.

But her overhead costs jumped because she is filling the second floor mezzanine area with retail products.  Later this fall, she will launch her own line of TPC cosmetics.

The back of the main floor is occupied by Crafty Kat Creations, a scrapbooking and card making business owned by Kathryne Knowles and managed by her daughter Presley.

Knowles ran Crafty Kat out of her home and online until recently.  This week, she is starting classes in her new store, where she’s set up for retail as well.

Classes are for children and adults, she said.  “We’re also having overnight PJ parties for adults.”

Finally, Kaitlyn Eastman is operating a photography studio in the back quarter of the spacious second floor.

“I do a lot of portraits, family photos, weddings and boudoir photography,” said Eastman, a grad of Lambton College’s digital photography program.

“I’m setting up a traditional studio here but my photos aren’t traditional.”

Public response to the reopening of the former Taylor’s building has been overwhelmingly positive, said Cabajar.  More than 300 people came to opening night, many curious to see how the space is being used now.

The exterior will eventually be improved, Cabajar added.

First Friday on Oct. 2 marks the beginning of the busy Halloween season for the building’s tenants. Special displays, free Halloween card making, “walking” art and more are on tap.

Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or 226-932-0985.