Douglas + Son is an eclectic shop featuring one-of-a-kind vintage goods, industrial furniture and Douglas + Son apparel. Founded in 2013 by Bill and Sacha Douglas, after moving to the small rural town of Bobcaygeon from Toronto. The couple design, produce, build, procure or ‘pick’ every item in the shop themselves, creating a truly unique experience for their customers.
Douglas + Son named after the owners’ family name and their son, now 8 years old, to evoke a family-run small-town mercantile vibe. Bill and Sacha designed the original shop that opened in 2013 and the current space that they relocated to in 2015.
What are your best sellers? We are best known for our line of Douglas + Son apparel and having a tightly curated selection of vintage items and industrial furniture.
Where are products sourced and made? For our apparel line, we design everything ourselves and produce most of it in Ontario. At our core we are pickers, and we search high and low across the backroads of North America in search of the best and most unique vintage, industrial, and antique statement pieces out there. We also build furniture out of industrial metal bases and reclaimed timber and whatever else we find! It’s a pretty sustainable business and we’re constantly trying to make it more so.
Who are your customers? We are in a fantastic rural cottage town 2 hours northeast of Toronto, so our customer base is a mix of seasonal cottagers from the city, locals, and visitors from all over.
How has the internet impacted your business? We introduced our online apparel store this past year and that has been a welcome addition to the bricks-and-mortar shop, especially for our customers from afar. However, Instagram, more than anything else, has had the biggest impact on our business. It allows us to tell our story and creates a connection that a website or online shop can’t. People discover you on Instagram and will make the special trip to seek you out, making it easier to operate a shop from a more “destination” location or smaller town.
Bill, Sacha + Son, Shopkeepers at Douglas + Son
Who inspires you? Stylistically, we’re inspired by everyone from Willie Nelson to Chance the Rapper, Patti Smith, Smokey the Bear and Buckminster Fuller.
What inspires you? Around here, we are inspired by our rural existence, local history, and nature. When we travel, we always incorporate some element of inspiration-seeking, whether it’s hunting down a killer hotel, flea market, shop, or out-of-the-way restaurant. We visit cities and small towns in equal measure. As well, we love books, printed matter, typography, architecture and interior design from all eras.
Before we were shopkeepers…. In our previous city life, Bill was a graphic designer (specializing in book design), magazine publisher, artist, and occasional singer in an alt/garage/country band. Sacha was a Chef and ran an eclectic event space where she hosted underground food, wine, and art events.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? It’s all-encompassing. There’s really no true downtime and it’s pretty much impossible to disconnect fully. Our wheels are always turning. That said, we wouldn’t have it any other way!
What task do you like to delegate? Luckily, we both bring different skill-sets and passions to the table, so we end up delegating to each other. Bill tends to focus on our design and product creation while Sacha focuses more on ‘front of house’ customer interaction and styling.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? Create an experience that people want to be a part of. It’s all in the details: Music, texture, design, aesthetic, product, friendly and authentic customer interaction. All of these elements have to cohere and you can’t drop the ball on any of them.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? You need to have a lot of elements in place… First off, make sure you have a unique product or angle. Choose a location where you are filling a gap. Use social media to create a story and be present in the shop… people want to connect with you. DIY as much as you can.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? Anderson Cooper! He follows us on Instagram and we are huge fans of his.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be.. We’d both be (duelling) BBQ Pit-Masters!
What is your perfect day off? Mini-road trip in the Kawartha Lakes in the summer… Driving around country roads with our son, doing some picking, swimming in a lake, followed by dinner on a patio.
Five favorite shops: That’s hard to answer as there are so many! For vintage, we love Tollgate Revival in Pittsburgh. In Toronto, we’re fans of Crown Flora, Smash Salvage, and our fave vinyl shop, Rotate This. Ooga Booga in LA’s Chinatown. And basically everything in LA’s Arts District.
Favorite neighborhood coffee shop: Kawartha Coffee Co right here in Bobcaygeon!
Favorite Restaurants: Muddy’s Pit BBQ in Keene. Edulis in Toronto. Joe Beef in Montreal.
I wish I could… Have more time to get everything done.
On the Future of Retail
“In our minds, the future of retail is to be satisfied with staying small, hands-on and bespoke. Explosive growth is not necessarily a good thing! You need to keep the personal touch present in order to counter the impersonal world of online shopping and ‘Big Box’ mall shopping. For us, it’s more gratifying that way, and we think so many of today’s shopkeepers feel the same.”
68 Bolton St., Bobcaygeon, Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, Canada