Capital Oh Profile: Sarah Hyde
Sarah Hyde, owner of Slaysh Skateboard and Snowboard shop, is an wickedly awesome individual. Having operated her own boutique since 2007, Sarah is no stranger to both the challenges of local retail, and the numerous rewards. Slaysh is more than a store. It's a unique experience, a community, and a dream. Under Sarah's leadership, Slaysh has injected a splash of cool into the Glebe unlike any other retailer on Bank Street. Last month, Slaysh and its many supporters celebrated the shop's 5 year anniversary with a bash and the release of a series of collaborations between Slaysh and its favourite designers. The event not only shook up the neighborhood, but allowed Sarah and her team to look back on the last half-decade. The experience was emotional and exciting, and Sarah and I (another Sarah!) reflected on it last week in an inspiring conversation. - S
Capital Oh:Your five-year anniversary was last month: how did it feel to reflect on the last five years?
Sarah: It was actually pretty exciting. Leading up to it, it didn’t feel like five years but I think once we had the event and the collaborations were finished, it finally sunk in. It was emotional for sure, but it was really exciting as well. But when you reflect back and see that it’s this huge accomplishment, that's when all the stuff you forgot about, the challenges, even the people you’ve met--things you don’t think about during a regular day...when you sit back and reflect, it all comes back to you at once. Especially all the people who have come out and put in work: seeing them come back to support you is really cool.
Tell us about Slaysh’s rebrand. It’s obvious you’ve gone a different route stylistically with the recent renovations.
I originally thought when I first opened up the store that on the fifth year, we’d redo the interior. It’s a normal thing when you look at high fashion stores like Chanel or Givenchy…any of those, they’re re-branding every five years: they redo their whole interior because they want to keep it fresh. And the customer is important too: you might have the same customer, but they’re looking for something different. Our customer had evolved and the brands we were carrying were evolving, and the customer was also a bit older than originally. Things were changing with who we were targeting and who we were carrying, but the look didn’t really suit it. So we did an overhaul: we changed the logo, changed the look of the shop just to make sure that the visual aspect of coming into the store matched what you were buying.
What influenced the new look? What sorts of things were inspiring you when you designed it?
It was a look I had liked even prior to doing the first renovation five years ago, but I think that the Ottawa customer wasn’t ready because we didn’t have a lot of boutiques here yet compared to somewhere in say, Europe or New York. [In those cities], they were already shopping this way: they had the stores laid out, merchandised versus having every piece facing you alone. So I didn’t want to do it in the first little bit but after five years I thought it would work. Customers are becoming more aware of fashion. They’re always online, they’re searching stuff and they don’t need everything right in their face. They want to discover things and sort of shop around so I did a lot of travel…I went to Europe years and years ago and took pictures and remembered some shops that visually I really liked. I also more recently just went to New York a couple times, but the last trip was just to get inspired and to look at different merchandise and different shop design. The wood we found from an old barn in Britannia from the 1800s, it was taken down and we had stacks of barn boards at [at our disposal]. I didn’t want to go and spend a ton of money.
Why do you think boutiques in Ottawa have become so good at creating their own unique identity through the aesthetic? The window displays in Ottawa are among some of the most unique and creative in Canada. Why is this so important?
I think that’s the difference between a small boutique and a big box store. And I think in Ottawa, if you look at the percentage of mall stores, or big-box stores, other cities definitely have more privately-owned boutiques so I think it’s even more important in Ottawa to stand out. Not only that, in a boutique, it’s not just about what you’re saying or selling, when you walk in, you create an atmosphere: whether its product, your staff, the look of the store, the music you’re playing. It’s everything. People don’t necessarily know what it is when they walk in, but they feel like they’re in somewhere different than if you just go to a mall. You take pride in your shop, you work hard, you want to put it all together and you want to make sure it’s all flowing together.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring boutique owner?
I always say planning. Most of it is planning. You have to have a vision and you have to be passionate about it. If you think you’re gonna go in to it and be like “oh, I’m gonna make money and I’m gonna sell clothes!”—you’re not like it, no way, you’re gonna get sick of it. But if you’re actually passionate about it and you like what you’re doing, you’ll know it’s right, even during your ups and downs.
What do you like about Ottawa? Why is it a Capital-cool city?
I've lived here most of my life, I went away to school but came back again because I really like that its a big city and it has everything that you need, but it has a sort-of small town feel. You walk down the street and see people who know your business and its actually really nice because everyone is so connected and so involved. It's great. It's big enough to have everything, but still small enough that people care.
775 Bank Street
613 667 5831