Downtown Edmonton has a lot to offer when it comes to shopping, so when we stumbled across Shop Chop, located on 102nd Ave and 107th Street, it was the store’s unique concept that immediately grabbed our attention. Operating as both a gift shop and salon, co-owners and best friends Robert Eccles and Prudie Anderson remind us that it is worthwhile to own a local business – especially in Edmonton. We sat down with the duo to learn more about Shop Chop, how the concept came to be, and what their thoughts are on what it means to stay local.

First walking into the store, we were immediately intrigued by an array of quirky and cute gifts, finding ourselves curious to explore more of the two level shop. Prudie, one of the owners, greeted us from the second floor and welcomed us in, which we had no problem doing since there were so many interesting products to look at. We quickly felt that Shop Chop embodies everything our blog strives to highlight – local, independently owned and run stores that bring life and charm into Edmonton’s downtown.

Anderson and Eccles are experienced hairdressers who were looking for a change of pace and environment when the idea of Shop Chop came about.

“In July it will be a year since we’ve been Shop Chop,” said Anderson, “It was all RJ. He came up with the soundproof wall and the whole design. He did the whole thing himself.”

The salon, which is situated in the back of the building, features a soundproof design that allows the shop in the front to remain separate, giving salon clients a sense of privacy.

“With shop chop we had all these other names that were really cute and cool, but I’ve always just called this place the shop, and then it was like – why don’t we call it shop chop?” said Anderson. The name is not only a fun play on words, but also reflects the light hearted and unconventional nature of the store.

Both native to Edmonton, Anderson and Eccles found it a no brainer to set up their business in the downtown area. “He’s from the North side, I’m South side, but we both have lived downtown for 20 years now. So we’re downtowners,” said Anderson, “The previous salon we worked at was downtown, so most of our clientele was here and worked here. We like to walk everywhere too.” Keeping business local and independent is hugely important in an age of never ending chain stores. Shop Chop is helping add to the growing amount of specialty shops in the downtown core, and is a welcome addition seeing as more and more consumers are looking for quality product from local businesses. Shop Chop brings in a variety of specialty items such as clothing, jewelry, pins, candles, hair care, cards and more – with an ever changing line-up of goods. They offer something for everyone, and the product is not something you will find at your everyday chain store.

Photo: Interior of Shop Chop; Salon can be seen through the glass

A challenge that often comes with owning an independent shop is marketing, especially when in the first year or two of business. Shop Chop has taken a smart approach by having their main contact via their Instagram account (@shop.chop.yeg). Social media is essential for building clientele in today’s society, and Instagram is one of the most popular apps to discover new people, places, and ideas. Instagram is usually one of the main places people go (other than Facebook) to check out a store they haven’t

visited yet; it allows consumers to get an inside glimpse at what products a shop carries, who they are, and to see what others are saying about it.

Eccles notes that social media is crucial for their shop to be sustainable, saying “For the first six months, it’s the only thing that we’ve done in terms of any kind of advertising. And I would say that eighty percent of people that come here who aren’t our clients are here because of Instagram.” They don’t have a Facebook page or a full-functioning website as of yet, but they are optimistic that their current way of advertising is working well. “Essentially every face that comes in here that I don’t recognize tells me that they have been following us on Instagram for months and this is their first time coming in,” said Eccles, “It also helps when we affiliate ourselves with other people who have a social media following that’s filtering into us. Their friends become our friends, so it’s a real trickle-down effect.

When most people have a dream of opening a store, or following a goal of some kind, they more often than not leave their hometown for somewhere bigger and more well-known. As journalism and communications students, know all too well the feeling of wanting to get out of Edmonton to find work in a bigger city. For Eccles and Anderson, staying in the city to establish their shop has been extremely important. “One thing that I love about Edmonton is that I think, especially for our generation, being in Edmonton and staying here afforded a lot of people opportunities that they would not have gotten had they moved away in their early twenties,” said Eccles, adding, “Especially us in our early twenties and becoming successful hairdressers, that was the point in our lives where we technically should have moved away to Vancouver or Toronto,” he said, “I think, had we not, we wouldn’t own our houses. We wouldn’t have ever had a place that we could have bought a business and owned the space that we’re in.”

Surprisingly, Anderson and Eccles pay a mortgage on the space that Shop Chop occupies. “It’s important to own your business space, and I think that’s the thing that really keeps us going,” said Eccles. Stores similar to theirs often lease spaces, which can cause uncertainty for many business owners. Eccles has seen the issues that leasing can cause, saying “I know tons of businesses on Whyte Ave or 104th Street – all of those places open up, stay for three years for their lease, and then their landlord jacks the rent and they have no choice but to move.”At this point in time our city is growing and becoming more prominent, so it’s important that our local shops are able to stick around and prosper.  “It’s nice to know you can build a kind of legacy out of your space,” added Eccles.

Anderson and Eccles have successfully created their unique business dream, and are a great example for any start-up businesses in Edmonton. Seeing a company believe so passionately in what our city has to offer is refreshing, and is something we need to see more of. As Edmonton continues to expand and change, we look forward to watching Shop Chop thrive along with it.

By Heather Gunn and Megan Lala

Photo Credit: Heather Gunn and Megan Lala

Twitter handle: @shop_chop_yeg

Instagram handle: @shop.chop.yeg

Webpage: www.shopchop.ca