TRURO – Shelley Austin knew her business was a favourite for a lot of clientele.
But she wasn’t prepared for the reaction when announcing she is closing Sea Shell Design at the end of this month.
“A lot of people have been coming in (over the years) saying this is their favourite store,” said Austin. “I have a lot of visitors from throughout the province who make a special trip up to come here. A lot will say, ‘this store makes me feel good,’ and, ‘this store is so different.’ So I’d heard that, but I wasn’t prepared at all. People have been coming in crying. It makes me feel good, but it’s also hard. I feel like I’m letting them down by closing.”
For 40 years, Sea Shell Design has been in operation, with the last 20 of those years being in Truro.
Recently, Austin’s daughter, Miriah Kearney, approached her about taking the building over with her business, My HOME Apparel.
“It was a big decision to make. I love the store, but I travel a lot,” said Austin. “I thought about it and, yeah, it’s time. This is huge for me, and now I’m finding out it’s huge for people. A lot have been coming in crying.”
Austin started her business as a designer, making her own clothes.
“That was exciting,” she said. “And then in Truro, (the business) became a much bigger operation. I was able to travel – to places like India, Bali, and Thailand – buying for the store, and that was pretty nice.”
Another favourite part over the years was being on Inglis Place – a “great location to be”.
Because she’s passing things along – Kearney is purchasing the building and moving her business in – Austin said that’s been making things easier.
“It would be a lot worse if I wasn’t passing it along. If I wasn’t, I would’ve been here until I was 90,” she said, laughing.
For Kearney, the move into the building is very much a “coming home” for her, as she grew up in the store.
“I feel like I’ve come full circle,” she said. “I’ve been working alongside my mom my entire life. She gave me the opportunity to start my business here. I had no overhead, so I was able to grow my company from the beginning. Now that I’m at the stage to come here, it’s emotional in all sorts of directions.”
My HOME Apparel started in the basement of Sea Shell Design. After eight months, Kearney moved the business to the upstairs for five months.
When she opens at the beginning of June, the retail aspect will be on the main floor, with warehouse and wholesale in the basement. Upstairs will see half utilized as the print screening studio, with a Makery also included.
“With the Makery, we’ll be able to host creative workshops,” explained Kearney. “It’s going to be a maker community here, that’s the focus of the store.”
Kearney said the clothing line of My HOME Apparel is always growing, thanks to the town support from the beginning.
“The community has been so supportive,” she said, with Austin noting the strong relationship Kearney has with Stanfields.
While she’s only been open in her current location downtown for a short while now, Kearney has already outgrown the studio and storage space. She will stay open until the end of May while doing renovations at the new building.
“The retail store is at capacity, too. There’s not a lot of opportunity to grow. Here (at Sea Shell Design’s space), I have a lot of big ideas. My brain and creativity have outgrown my current space,” she said.
To celebrate Austin’s success in the business, a big retirement party is planned for April 27 at the store. It will feature a Brazilian bosanova band, and video from the years. It’s open to anyone who wants to help celebrate, and see Austin off into retirement.
“I’ll miss all the people, and the regular routine of it,” admitted Austin. “But I’m starting to look forward to my new adventures. I plan on doing quite a bit of travelling, and I want to build a log home near Tatamagouche. I want to be by the ocean.”