Aria Leroux bought Aunt Olive’s vintage shop on Gilmour St in May 2011 and quickly turned her new shop, Gypsy and Co, into a welcoming space for Ottawa’s queer community. The store is full of eclectic clothing and accessories, and if customers are hungry, they can grab a sandwich in the café.
Xtra caught up with Leroux to chat about business.
Samantha Everts: How did Gypsy and Co begin?
Aria Leroux: I started selling screen-printed T-shirts about three years ago and ran an online vintage clothing store for two years before that. Mandy Lunan [of Auntie Loo’s Treats] let me know when a space was available and helped me network my way into following my dream.
What’s the importance of being involved as both a businesswoman and a queer burlesque performer, and how do you cater to the community?
We try as much as we ca n to have a space that is accepting of everyone. We had a debate about whether or not to “come out” as burlesque performers, but we find it’s really helped. A girl bought her girlfriend her engagement ring here a couple of months ago. She felt totally comfortable gushing to me in the store how she was going to propose to her girlfriend. Even on our menu we have tried to pay tribute to the community: we have a Frank N Beans, which is the cheese ball appetizer, and La Petite Mort, after Guy Bérubé’s gallery. [Bérubé] helped us with our first art show — it’s the most decadent sandwich.
What can customers expect to find for sale?
I buy all over the place: the States, Montreal, Toronto. Every piece of women’s wear has 30 minutes to three hours of work to make it more modern. One of my favourite things is watching a single piece of clothing on all the different people, because vintage is so versatile anyone can wear it. I had four mesh crop tops from the 1980s and I sold them all to men. For queer guys I try to bring higher-quality menswear.