Montreal-based furniture company reopening Wicker Emporium brand in Charlottetown March 2
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —
When the Wicker Emporium went bankrupt in October, Stephanie Briggs and Clive Cunliffe saw an opportunity to bring back the 47-year-old brand and reopen the retail store in Charlottetown under the same name.
“There’s a brand following and that is worth a lot to us,” said Briggs, who co-owns (with Cunliffe) the Montreal-based company CCBS Imports Inc. that bought the brand.
The Charlottetown store is set to open on March 2 in the space on Babineau Avenue near Sobeys that was previously occupied by Wicker Emporium.
“It’s ready. It’s established. And a lot of people are looking for that kind of furniture,” said Briggs.
Cunliffe added that they’re planning to do something special when the brand turns 50.
“It seems a shame to waste that kind of heritage,” he said.
The owners specialize in e-commerce, so the “bricks and mortar” aspect of the business is something new. The company is also operating a Wicker Emporium website for online sales.
Briggs sees the keys to the new venture as honest pricing and quality products.
When they bought the bankrupt Wicker Emporium, they also acquired some assets along with the brand name. They also manufacture furniture under the 5tyle Furniture brand.
But the Charlottetown store will be stocked with unique pieces of furniture from places like India.
“When I’m in India and I’m travelling, you’re in big sheds and it’s hot and the stuff is packed to the rafters. You’re rummaging around trying to find that cool little sculpture,” Briggs said.
The unique furniture items, sometimes hundreds of years old, are cleaned up, fixed and polished for resale.
“When you come into a retail store, you want unique pieces that no one else has. You want that awesome showpiece,” she said. “I go with my supplier, and we go into these factories and we find these pieces. It’s an awesome experience. That would be a really big difference between the old Wicker (Emporium) and the new. This is our first retail location and that’s a big thing.”
Briggs said the old Wicker Emporium that went bankrupt and the brand her company purchased are two separate things. She understands past customers may be frustrated that gift cards and problems with products cannot be honoured or resolved because they belong to the old business, but that’s what happens in bankruptcies.
The pair bought the brand but didn’t buy past debt, obligations or past issues with products under the former business, she said.
“Same name. Fresh start. Different ownership. Different vision. Different goals,” said Briggs.
The plan is to eventually open more brick-and-mortar retail stores beyond Charlottetown. Briggs said they’re taking it “one day at a time” and finding out what sort of products and styles Maritime clients want.
“We’re setting up one location, understanding the Maritime needs,” she said. “Because we’re based in Montreal and Toronto, the niche markets are very different. What people are looking for there is not going to be what they’re looking for here.”