Whether it be an old book or movie, a statue of a video game character or an obscure heavy metal album, Shawville’s Renaissance Variety aims to sell anything related to entertainment and culture.
The store’s walls are lined with books, DVDs, CDs, records, video games, gaming consoles, figures and more, boasting a mixture of the latest releases and older classics that never lose their charm.
“Nothing gets old here,” said Jason Yereck, who runs Renaissance Variety with his wife, Lorna. “You can’t kill nostalgia.”
Jason explained that the store doesn’t like to let old consoles and machines go to waste. Outside the store sits a collection of old tech that is being fixed up. Staff often repair them as needed and resell them in the hopes of helping customers find something they used to have or always wanted. In other cases, they’ll donate items to women’s shelters or other causes that they believe could benefit from it.
Jason believes that every item they sell has its rightful owner out there, that person just needs to be found.
“A lot of people can identify with a video game or a movie or book,” said Jason. “It doesn’t matter who you are, most people have one of those interests, or all three.”
Though the store sells all sorts of entertainment-themed products, it wasn’t always that way. When Lorna started the business in Ottawa in 1999, she sold clothes, furniture and other miscellaneous items. “Anything I could get my hands on,” she said, describing her old inventory.
Lorna explained that she started the store because she was “tired of the rat race” and wanted to try something else. After a few months, she met Jason and the two eventually became partners in business and in life.
They both had experience as vendors in their youth. Jason fondly recalled growing up on his family’s farm near Otter Lake and selling to customers at markets at as young as 12. He explained that speaking to customers gave him a sort of rush of adrenaline that he’s loved ever since. In her childhood, Lorna also had similar experiences.
“She used to have a little tiny sale. She would sell mud cakes and mud pies to her brothers and they would pay her with stones,” said Jason.
In the business, the two each took on different roles, with Lorna stepping more into the background, dealing with the various behind the scenes jobs the business required. Jason, on the other hand, became the man behind the counter, talking and working closely with customers due to his love of one-on-one interaction.
“We like the old-fashionedness of one-on-one,” said Jason. “A lot of businesses have gone 100 per cent online and all the good stuff has already been sold. [But here], if you want to find a first edition of something, I probably still have it tucked away somewhere.”
He added that while the store does do some advertising online and will sell items online if nobody buys it in person, they much prefer to sell in person, offering the vast majority of their products only in-store.
Part of the reason they prefer this in person interaction is that they like to build a relationship with customers. Jason explained that they often catch up with customers and discuss what’s new in their lives. In the past, he’s even hugged customers who were going through hard times.
The Yerecks explained that this tight-knit relationship with the community is part of what brought them to Shawville. In Ottawa, they found the community to be very closed off.
“It’s almost gotten to the point where if you smile at someone in Ottawa, they look at you [strange]. It’s gotten cold,” said Jason.
When opening their Shawville shop in 2002, the couple had covered every window with paper so locals would have to guess at what they sold. Jason recalled that the store had been packed shoulder to shoulder when they had their grand opening.
The duo had run stores in both Vanier and Shawville for a short time but soon decided that it was too time-consuming. Lorna drove from Ottawa to Shawville each morning and back again in the evening. They weighed their options and decided that their future was in Shawville, where their new location had already proven more profitable than its Ottawa counterpart.
They soon moved to Shawville and closed down the Ottawa location, where the couple says they’ve found success. Since moving to Shawville, they’ve managed to move to a larger location and even had to build an expansion.
“Up here, we were able to grow,” said Jason.
They’ve also been able to get involved with the community. Over the years, they’ve taken on a multitude of student employees, some of which have continued to work for them, others have moved on to pursue different things.
Jason explained that they’ve tried to teach their students various skills, such as taking inventory, repairing old technology and interacting with customers. By and large, they’ve found these experiences very positive, referring to the students as “success stories.” Though none of the students ever received employee of the month, as it was an honour won back-to-back by Jason and Lorna’s dog, Dizzy, until he passed away.
Lorna explained that they keep in touch with many of their former students. Often, they’ve held Christmas dinners where they’ve invited their former workers over to catch up and enjoy a meal together.
Jason explained that they’re happy with where they are. Each year, they take on one new project to upgrade the business in some way. “We’ve grown every year,” he said. “Slow steps every year to keep developing what’s working. [The store is] like our 20-year-old baby.”
Lorna commented that she sometimes has trouble sleeping, not because of stress or fear, but because she’s excited to get up the next morning. She recommends that others pursue their dreams in the same way she did.
“I’d recommend to a lot of people to go after your dreams,” said Lorna. “Don’t be afraid, fear kills dreams. Flip fear to love one day at a time and then discover your dreams.”
Doing this seems to have worked out well for the couple as they take pride in how far the business has come.
“I believe I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish, and I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Lorna.
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