Windrush owner takes matters into her own hands
When the Woolrich clothing store left Knowlton earlier this year, Chantal Cloutier was out of a job. She took matters into her own hands and opened Windrush boutique in the same building in which she had worked for the past few years. She is the co-owner of the new boutique with her husband, Ian Bryson.
“This is a new challenge,” Cloutier said Friday.
She was an assistant manager for Woolrich, and was the manager for the past few years. She worked for Woolrich for 12 years.
“We knew things were going downhill the last few years,” she said. “There was less innovation in the basic lines and the collection was getting smaller and smaller.” Employees got the news last December that the store would be closing in March. She and her husband got busy. Woolrich would be selling some of its furniture and props. They
went to one bank, which declined to lend them money. They went to Caisse Desjardins, which “said yes to the project.” Cloutier and Bryson bought some of the furniture. They made arrangements to rent the space from owner Francois Lequin and they opened Windrush on June 7.
“We had to decide, and take the opportunity when it was there,” Bryson said. “Everything fell into place.”
“My husband is an administrator,” Cloutier said. “He’s a perfect match.”
When asked if opening her own business was nerve-wracking, she replied, “A bit. But it’s nice to own and make your own decisions.” Her suppliers, she said, have been wonderful, and the residents of the Town of Brome Lake have been supportive. “I’m happy to be in a nice neighbourhood.”
The Montreal native has lived in Brome County for 24 years. She is used to working with the public. Before moving, she said, she worked part time for The Bay in Montreal.
“It was a challenge to start the store,” Cloutier said. When they opened they bought the summer line of clothing. A month later they had to buy the fall and winter line. “There was a lot of buying,” she said.
But friends helped to get the store ready for opening. A co-worker from Woolrich helped, as did the couple’s daughter. She said they couldn’t pay them immediately. They currently have a part-time employee, Margo Allen, who works the odd day.
The store offers what Cloutier describes as reasonably priced clothing similar to Woolrich’s. The Royal Robbins line, she said, is good quality. They also carry some lines from Denmark, like Lolë, which was created in Montreal but is now offered worldwide.
The name Windrush is a former farm name. Cloutier said Bryson’s parents moved from Montreal and bought a farm 40 years ago. They named it Windrush Farm. They are now gone, but Bryson took the name Windrush Marketing for his firm.
“He had the domain and he designed the logo,” she said. “Ian used to windsurf on the lake.”
Cloutier said she didn’t go along with the idea at first, but she liked the sails. And they have a son named William, so there are a lot of W’s in her life.
“I never thought I’d open a store,” Cloutier said. “The closing of Woolrich – it was a shock to everbody.” She pointed out that Jones of New York also closed.
She stressed that she could not have opened her store without her husband.
“He’s a big part of it.” He does the office work and sometimes works on the floor.
There’s a lot of work. Some Mondays when Allen works, Cloutier and Bryson don’t exactly get the day off. They sometimes go to Montreal to buy.
“But it’s for ourselves,” she said. “Maybe in the future we can have a staff and get two days off a week.”
Large draft horses and little ones alike were part of the parade.
Windrush owners Chantal Cloutier and her husband Ian Bryson stand next to the logo he designed. Cloutier lost her job when Woolrich closed in March so the couple opened their own store.