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The Indie Store Revival

Repsycho and Heartbeat 960 breathe life back into consignment shopping

By Jessica Lewis

Toronto’s independent arts community has become more hospitable since last summer’s addition of two consignment shops/ work spaces: Repsycho at 696College Street and Heartbeat 960at 960Queen Street West. Each store has found that giving cre­ativity a home during a recession has led to beautiful work and will hopefully lead to a strengthened community.

Repsycho opened in September as the lifelong dream of Ryan Tonkin. It features a wide space for art, clothing, magazines and music as well as a space with seating and free wi-fi. On the other side of the store, there is a room devoted to selling hot beverages, treats and zines, while adjacent is an empty room that artists can use free-of-charge for projects of their choice. “Everything here is upfront and honest, because that’s the way it needs to be done,” says Tonkin, who now runs Repsycho with two business partners, Steve Arbuckle and Brandon Lim. “There are so many places where artists feel they get taken advantage of and that’s just not fair.”

As for consignment fees, the store takes 35% from clothing, jewelry and most art, 20%, from zines, comics and magazines and 10% from tickets. Most music and films are priced around $1to $2. “People like to buy locally,” says Tonkin. “And I feel that now more than ever, people are a lot more into that.”

Heartbeat 960opened on a whim as co-founder Jodi Lewis walked by and saw a “for rent” sign. Lewis opened the store with a few friends three weeks later with no money but many cus­tomers. Currently, Lewis runs the store with co-founder Demian Carynnyk, friend Petra Turner and a collection of volunteers. Heatbeat 960is a long space, with rooms for button-making, silk-screening and photography. On the main floor, there is rent­al space in the window and tables for sewing, paintings hang on the walls and there are racks full of clothing, music and buttons, while there are spaces for concerts in the backyard and basement. The store also holds workshops of all kinds.

With a lowered rent price from the landlord and flexible artist rental fees, Heartbeat 960runs on a small budget. “I think people have this perception that you need $20,000to open a store and while that is valuable, you can make do in many ways with so much less,” says Carynnyk.

Consignment fees at Heartbeat 960are usually 30%, but they are flexible. Heartbeat has been looking into a location change for an even cheaper rent price, a web store and more workshops.

With a focus on inclusive community and locally-made prod­ucts, these two stores are helping pave the way for Toronto art­ists, who these store owners believe should always be properly showcased and compensated.

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