Shop Goss is the Georgia Straight’s weekly feature, where we give you the lowdown on Metro Vancouver’s coolest independent boutiques—and the spirited minds behind them—that deserve a spot on your shopping radar.
This week, we meet Jennifer MacKay, owner of Gastown's longstanding the Block (350 West Cordova Street).
Describe your business in three sentences or less.
The Block is an established women’s and men’s boutique in Gastown. We do our best to have everything—at various price points—from T-shirts to something you could wear to a wedding. (Even your own!) We carry unique, hard-to-find brands mixed with popular, more accessible ones.
How did you come to own and/or operate your own boutique?
I worked for the previous owner, Erian Baxter, on and off for years. When she decided to move on to other adventures, she asked if I would be interested in taking over both the space and the Block.
My favourite brands we carry at the moment are…
Loeffler Randall is the first shoe line we ever carried: they make the most lovely shoes that are always ahead of the curve yet classic and elegant. If you need comfortable high heels, this is the brand for you!
Ulla Johnson is another one: her collections have really evolved over the 10-plus years we've carried them and now have a huge following. I love getting a new piece from her and wearing it to something special. With that being said, I am always happy to pull out and wear old Ulla items from my closet, which is what I did today.
We are all huge fans of Wendy Nichol: all her bags are handmade in her New York City studio and store. Even when I am in New York, I get stopped by people commenting on my Wendy Nichol bag. I still use my original Wendy Nichol Canteen that I got eight years ago every day.
A.P.C. makes super easy but cute everyday wear. I never get rid of an A.P.C item; they make great men’s clothing too. No. 6 has great prints and fabrics; all clothing is New York–made. Plus, they have one of my favourite stores in New York City.
You’re being sent to a desert island with limited Wi-Fi access for an indefinite amount of time. What three products in the shop right now would you take with you?
Name a new arrival you can’t wait to show off.
A mirrored leather skirt from Veda. All you need with this skirt is a white T-shirt!
What’s the weirdest, wackiest, or most out-there item on your shelves or racks at the moment?
Probably the skirt above or the Henrik Vibskov Wing Wang Monster T-shirt, which is printed and embroidered with bold colours. Henrik is a Danish artist and fashion designer known for his prints, interesting fashion shows, and art installations.
My last purchase—from the store or otherwise—was…
A clear umbrella from Shopper’s Drug Mart.
When I’m not at the shop, you can find me…
Working in my garden. I just planted some different types of lettuce and kale, and am spending lots of time weeding and trimming while my son, Kasper, digs for worms. I'm also getting ready for all the flowers to bloom!
What’s another local business you love?
Eugene Choo (3683 Main Street), my husband’s store. (Sorry, it is the obvious answer!) All the unique stores and restaurants in the Gastown area, too: it has become a great neighbourhood to spend the day and night.
I do not do a lot of shopping, but I love to go out for food and drinks and there are so many great places opened by super talented people. Bao Bei (163 Keefer Street) is a super fun restaurant with great food, drinks, and service. It's often our pick for staff parties.
Ask for Luigi (305 Alexander Street) is cozy and always delicious. I love everything about this place, especially their little bottles of Aperol Spritz. Coquille Fine Seafood (181 Carrall Street) is such a beautiful, fresh looking space; they have a great happy hour and I love their house wine.
And then there's Sorella (3369 Cambie Street), which has this warm, cozy environment and amazing service. The food is so thoughtfully done with lots of local ingredients, and very delicious. I love the Arbor (3941 Main Street) for lunch or dinner; it really works for both times of day, plus they have a beautiful garden patio. They do a great take on vegetarian food and have great staff.