A tiny store with big plans

If the environment you create is a reflection of who you are, than Jen Williams's head must be a really interesting place. In her tiny space inside Horwood's mall, Williams has created a store that is distinctly hers.

If the environment you create is a reflection of who you are, than Jen Williams’s head must be a really interesting place.

In her tiny space inside Horwood’s mall, Williams has created a store that is distinctly hers.

Instead of relying on one or two catalogues to stock The Collective Good, each item that lines the walls has been personally selected by Williams from individual creators.

“A lot of them just start out as things that I like, or companies that I enjoy. I do like things that are modern takes on Canadiana. I like the contemporary fresh look. I’m really influenced by Scandinavian design,” she said.

Tucked away among much larger retail spaces, every corner of The Collective Good has something to look at.

“We use every nook and cranny, that’s for sure,” Williams said, glancing around the place.

Along with T-shirts, dresses and other clothes, the walls display quirkier items like the Flat Life Series pieces. Created by an American company, these flat depictions of a lamp and a clock light up and function like their conventional counterparts while they hang on your wall.

Or maybe you are in the market for a cheese slicer with a history. The store sells slicers from a Norwegian company that claims to be founded by the creator of the tool.

“He was a carpenter, toiling away in his workshop and needed to cut some cheese, but had nothing,” Williams said.

“So he used one of his planers and that gave him the idea, supposedly, to create the cheese slicer.”

For the literary types there is the book Feminist Ryan Gosling. Featuring the Canadian star, that one sold out quickly.

“There’s something to buying things that people like, and people like their Feminist Ryan Gosling.”

The Collective Good also offers handcrafted jewelry as well as bags, totes, and a surprising number of tea towels, all with unique prints.

The store stocks mostly items from Scandinavia and North America, including some items from the Yukon.

Williams, 40, is a visual artist herself and says she’s always been a fan of creative people and designers.

“For years, I’ve kept track of people who make things. I have notebooks full of things, from when I travel,” she said.

“If I see something I like I’ll write it down, because you can’t buy everything. So I just have books full of things. I have a million bookmarks on my computer of things I see as I go.”

That made sourcing items to sell much easier when, in June, The Collective Good opened its doors.

“It was just a matter of saying, ‘This is what I’m doing, are you interested?’”

And so far creators have been willing to get involved.

“They’re pretty stoked. They’re excited to be in the Yukon and up North. I think for most of these makers it’s their first time coming up here. Now a lot of people are finding me. I guess word of the shop is getting out.”

Williams acknowledges it would probably be easier – and likely cheaper – if she chose to stock her store using bulk orders from a catalogue. But she says she enjoys her hands-on method.

“It has to be something that I like and then I hope it’s something other people will like,” she said.

“I want it to be something that you can’t find here already, because I don’t want to duplicate what people are doing. I really like Canadian-made – I like supporting Canadian designers.”

The small store started with equally small business hours, only open a few days a week in the afternoon.

“That’s how I started because it was just me and I wanted to make sure it was hours that I could keep.”

Now that Williams has been able to hire some help, the doors are staying open a little longer. Currently The Collective Good is open Tuesday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Williams is eventually hoping for a bigger space.

“I love being in a small space, it’s been such a good place to start. The overhead is just right. But there are things I want to carry, furniture especially.”

The Collective Good will be expanding into furniture sales even before it expands its size. The store is having a Danish Modern Vintage furniture sale on Saturday and Sunday.

And how do you run a furniture sale when your store is extra tiny? You line the hallways outside.

The sale is running Saturday, Sept. 14 from 6 to 9 p.m.

“Baked Cafe is going to open from 6 to 9 so people can come, have a glass of wine at Baked. We’re going to set up the furniture in the hall,” Williams said.

The sale continues Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“My partner and I are crazy about Scandinavian design,” Williams said.

“Wherever we go, some people look for the museums, we look for the furniture stores.”

Williams is introspective when asked what the business says about her.

“Hopefully, what you see in a celebration of creativity and people’s design. I love design, I love esthetics, just the idea of caring about what you live with. Hopefully that says something about me.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at