Every morning, Louise Bedford drives down King St. East in Millbrook and is greeted by Medd’s Mountain, overlooking the town’s quaint main street.
“When I turn out of my street and come down the hill to work, it’s like I take a deep breath,” Louise tells of her morning commute within the township of Cavan Monaghan.
“All I see is 360 degrees of forest and nature. That warms my heart,” she explains.
So, it would make sense that her new house plant and artisan goods store is called ‘The Valley Shoppe’.
Much like the hilly geography in Millbrook pushes everything towards the active downtown, Louise’s new business has been pushing tons of new visitors to one of Peterborough & the Kawarthas’ fastest growing townships.
Customers have been driving in from Markham, Vaughan, Scarborough, Tweed and Colborne, all for some must-have air purifying house plants and locally made artisan goods.
“People drive from places I never think they would drive from,” Louise says, still taken back by the response.
“I think plants right now, specifically house plants, are huge. People all of a sudden are really digging houseplants,” she said. “It’s massive with the millennials. They’re all about that.”
This momentum in Millbrook has all happened very fast for Louise and The Valley Shoppe.
It was November 2018, when Louise, her husband and their two kids moved from North Oshawa to Millbrook.
Louise, who had grown up in Ajax (along with her husband), was in the horticultural landscape industry for 13 years. She was working for a company that did large-scale residential properties in well-known neighbourhoods like the Bridle Path in Toronto, before transitioning to becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom.
Shortly after moving, Louise and her husband were eating at the Pastry Peddler in downtown Millbrook. Louise locked her eyes onto a storefront with a ‘Flower Shop’ sign in the window across the road.
“My hopes and dreams were crushed because I thought, ‘why didn’t I think of that first?’”
She quickly found out that it was just a temporary sign that was placed for a movie being filmed in town and the storefront was still for lease.
“I literally went home that night on Valentine’s Day and wrote up a business plan,” she recalls. “I woke up the next day and thought, ‘I’m doing this’.”
Becoming an entrepreneur was not even a thought when Louise moved here. She had been a stay-at-home mom since the birth of her son 3-and-a-half years ago.
“I knew I wanted to go back to work but I didn’t want to work for somebody else. I wanted my own thing, where I could make my own rules,” she said.
“I wanted to have a space for myself where I could be creative and just talk to regular people everyday.”
Shortly after, Louise heard about the free business advice and counsel that Peterborough & the Kawarthas Business Advisory Centre (BAC) offered through other retailers. She went directly to Madeleine Hurrell, Entrepreneurship Officer for the BAC.
Louise set up a couple meetings with Madeleine, brought all her ideas, paperwork, budget and they narrowed down on what Louise specifically wanted to do. Louise also was given some worksheets to further unpack and focus on what her store would provide.
“Maddie really helped me when it came down to my actual space,” Louise said.
“Things I never would have thought of like: How products would be displayed? How am I going to promote? What are my windows going to look like? Do I have music? What Point-of-Sale system am I using? That kind of stuff.”
Louise also said Madeleine showed her how to incorporate the artisan side with the business side of retail.
“She’s so easy to talk to, very welcoming and super helpful. I could email Madeleine right now to ask her a question and she’d get back to me right away,” Louise said.
That business idea turned into The Valley Shoppe, which carries primarily indoor plants, along with locally crafted jewelry, paint, prints, skin care products, candles and other artisan goods.
The Valley Shoppe opened in June 2019 and Louise said she’s not only been floored by the customers, but also the response from other business owners in Millbrook.
“I’ve never done the retail side of things, so this is all still very new. It’s been a real awesome welcome to the community,” she said.
Louise went to every single business on King St. East to let them know what she was planning on doing and to get to know the staff, owners and what they do better.
“Every single person that owns a business down here has been wonderful. It’s like I have 20 new best friends. Everyone’s always ready to help. It’s awesome coming to work.”
Louise worked hard reaching out to local vendors early on, now she has countless artisans reaching out to The Valley Shoppe to carry their products.
She really sees The Valley Shoppe as a space to strengthen the handmade goods scene in Peterborough & the Kawarthas.
“You can get everything you need locally and mostly handmade,” Louise passionately explains. “The products are always better, they’re always safer and you’re supporting someone like myself or another local maker. It’s going right into their pocket and helping their family.”
The Valley Shoppe also offers two workshops a month, where the community can come and learn things like how to propagate, a paint night workshop, candle making, Christmas string art and many other workshops.
My husband was very wary, but I knew I was doing it. I wanted it and now here we are,” Louise says as she laughs. “I did it.”
The Valley Shoppe hours are:
Tuesday & Wednesday: 10 AM – 6 PM
Thursday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Friday: 10 AM – 6 PM
Saturday & Sunday: 10 AM – 4PM