Sunday, May 9, 2010

story: The Regional Assembly of Text

Above: Rebecca stands in front of the wall of filing cabinets, one of which came from her mother's office.

Lisa W. met with Rebecca from Regional Assembly of Text. Rebecca is a co-owner of the store, an adorable text-based craft store on Main St, just near King Edward. Rebecca is from Calgary, her business partner and close friend Brandy is from Victoria. Rebecca currently lives on Commercial Dr, and rides her bike to work at 3934 Main St. everyday. The store is reaching its five year anniversary this coming August, and they are slowly getting busier and busier as time passes.

Here is what Rebecca had to say:

"Brandy and I met at Emily Carr and liked to collaborate. We both started printmaking and bookmaking. We started selling stuff at craft fairs and progressed from there. We did really well, and wanted to find a studio space together which eventually turned into finding a storefront together. We wrote a business plan, and searched until we found something we liked.

We knew in our hearts it would be Main St., and went through the motions of looking at spaces in Kits and Commercial Dr, but found a space on Main St near King Edward that we thought was the best fit. It took about a year of searching.

I like Main St. because there is a mix between old and new. I really like that there is still The Legion across the street and great restaurants that aren't too hip. As opposed to places like Kits where many spaces seem like they are just doing what they know sells.

Above: The back studio space.

We tried to make everything we sold. There is a studio space in the back with printing stations for us to create things. One of us usually works in the back while the other runs the store out front. We do all the prints in the back, and often collaborate with each other. But each of us has our own projects, some things are my baby, some are Brandy's baby. We work really well together, and I wouldn't open a business with anyone else.

Above: There is a cot in the top-left corner, covered by a blanket.

When we first opened we had a tiny spot for a cot in the back studio space, we used a little ladder to climb up there. We were working 6 days a week, ten hours a day, so we used to take turns having naps up there!

Above: The typewriter on the far left is Rebecca's Grandmother's typewriter, which she used to play office with as a little girl.

We have a lot of typewriters here now, and use them all during our monthly Letter Writing Club evening, which is the first Thursday of the month. At first it was started as something free to involve the community, I feel a bit weird about being so retail and consumerist involved. We didn't imagine it would be as popular as it is. Basically, at 7, people show up and use our typewriters and materials to write letters. These often seem to be letters for loved ones. At first we thought only a few people would come to these nights, but now we get 35 people or so every month, a few are regulars but for the most part it is new comers.

We also find a lot of people want to write articles about this event, and have received a lot of press for this event. We get a lot of newspapers and such writing about us. We don't do any advertising so word of mouth is really how we have gotten so many customers.

We fix typewriters as best we can, but usually just fiddle with them until we figure out how to make them work again. We have a typewriter repair fund and ribbon replacement fund (pic below) where people who come in just to use the typewriters donate money. Once we get enough we take typewriters we can't figure out how to repair to this guy in town who fixes them, he oils them up replaces the ribbon and makes them feel shiny and new again. It's not cheap, though.

Brandy and I are both big fans of zines. We both have huge collections. We started the Lowercase Reading Room to celebrate our love of zines. It used to be a gallery but it got to be too hard to keep up with. We still have book launches and little events, though.

Above: The Button Making station.

I like the idea of making your own cards. Someone once told me, "Don't sell anything you wouldn't buy yourself."

I hardly ever buy cards, I always make them myself. We make pretty much everything here, and created a card-making station and a button-making station to celebrate that. I love when someone asks me if we have a specific card, and I can reply, "We don't, but you can make one yourself! "

Above: The card making station.

We have an old letter press in the back, which I wish I had more time to use. You have to place each letter one by one. I remember we had this group of students coming in to look at it, and wanted to use a different font, or make the letters bigger. It was kind of nice to say, this is all you can use, this is it. I feel like people are so used to having so many options and take for granted the old processes that got us to where we are now."

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