AMA member Karen Richert admits she has a fondness for shiny objects—which might explain why her family-run boutique is called Magpies Collection. Operating at the Premium Outlet Collection at Edmonton International Airport, as well at its original location in Leduc, the shop specializes in unique products by Canadian artisans.
While Richert runs the business, she credits her daughter, Chantal Aird, with sourcing many of Magpies’ locally made products.
“She can usually be found in some corner of the province tracking down wonderful people who are doing amazing things,” Richert explains. “When we talk about ‘locally sourced’ we mean all of Canada as well, but we do pay attention to what’s going on in our provincial backyard. In fact, Magpies was opened because we wanted to shine a light on talented local artisans.”
That light shines on an impressively diverse collection of Canadian- and Alberta-made products, including jewellery, lotions, gourmet items, stationery, toys and much more. It’s been a simple but successful business model since the boutique’s 2018 founding. “If people are given a choice they’ll choose something locally made or as close to home as they can find,” Richert says.
What are some of the store’s most popular items? What are some of Chantal’s recent finds?
The Barefoot Venus line is very popular with customers: hand creams, bath oils and things like that. Rainbow dragonfly crystal art is also a big seller in the store. Among Chantal’s newest discoveries is Cheri’s Pottery out of Morinville. We used to see her at a farmers’ market, and she just started working again after taking some time off. She’s very inspirational.
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How has COVID-19 otherwise affected your business?
We’ve had to adapt to an online model, which was hard, because we never wanted to be an online store. We like the experience of face-to-face shopping, with customers stopping in to say hi. Initially, there was a big learning curve when it came to creating and maintaining our social media presence. Chantal has been posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram and that’s been piquing people’s curiosity.
How have customers reacted to your pivot?
They come by every day, they’re so supportive and they won’t let us go. It’s like we have this big safety net. People have been great, whether through financial support or just words of kindness and encouragement, which go a long way. I like how people trust us to find items for them; they’ll say, “It’s my daughter’s 13th birthday, surprise me,” and we always find something they love.
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What are your plans going forward?
Opening a second store in the mall was a big step forward. Makers are now reaching out to us, which is great: They want to know if their wares would be a good fit for the store. We want to grow our supplier base, so we’re also looking forward to connecting with people in person at gift shows. In the meantime we’re getting by with our amazing staff; every employee really stepped up during the pandemic. There have been some long shifts, but for the most part not a day has gone by where I haven’t heard the cash register ring.
HOW TO SAVE
AMA members earn 5% cash back on the purchase of Shopping.ca gift cards, which can be used at participating retailers (including Magpies Collection) at Premium Outlet Collection EIA, Southgate Centre and CrossIron Mills. Buy the card—as a gift, or for yourself—at any one of our 17 AMA centres across Alberta.