By John De Genova
I venture inside 797 Bank Street (formerly of wine-store Vintage) to be greeted by Renée Morra and Sophie Beaudoin, owners of the chic women’s boutique viens avec moi. Morra and Beaudoin are both friendly, self-assured and, like the store itself, the image of design and style. I am immediately impressed with the store’s openness – soft and at times bold décor with exposed wood slats and painted wood floors and ceiling – and its dazzling displays of beautiful clothing and accessories. One cannot help being charmed by the thought and care that must have been applied to making viens avec moi so welcoming and beautiful.
For the interview, I am ushered to the back of the store to a lovely sitting area complete with marble table situated just outside a remarkable changing area of harem-like curtains, the ceiling harnessed with long, leather straps. The discussion quickly centres around their enduring friendship that began in Grade 9 at Ottawa’s De La Salle Public High School. Their paths have interlaced ever since, both personally and professionally, through university (Beaudoin in commerce and Morra in journalism) and into business.
“Both of us have always loved fashion, shopping, clothing, accessories,” says Beaudoin. “Pretty things.” Morra nods in agreement. “Both of our grandmothers and mothers were into fashion and we liked to go through their closets and admire their jewelry and clothes.”
The allure of fashion led Beaudoin to purchase Models International Management in 2003; Morra joined the firm as a stylist and agent. They worked side-by-side there for years, gaining business smarts and an incredible fashion network. Although the modelling business was exciting, the two had always longed for a clothing boutique. In 2011, they opened viens avec moi in Wellington Village.
“Wellington Village was a budding area,” Morra explains, “and a good place to launch a boutique store.”
Despite many happy years on Wellington Street, the site had drawbacks. The store was more like a house than a retail establishment. There were stairs, making it difficult to access, and tinted windows, making it difficult to gaze into.
Formerly a Glebe resident, Morra knew the neighbourhood’s charms and treasures. Beaudoin’s extensive business connections sang the Glebe’s praises, pointing to several thriving, locally owned establishments. The decision was made to relocate. Following three months of renovations, Morra and Beaudoin debuted Glebe’s viens avec moi on September 14, 2019.
“Business has been good from day one. No regrets,” Beaudoin affirms. “Glebe foot traffic is excellent. We had to order additional stock in the first month.”
viens avec moi caters to fashion-conscious women of all ages, Morra and Beaudoin explain. It is a boutique, a fashion lifestyle, a comfortable place where mothers and daughters can shop together. One can find the new and trendy or discover classic, timeless pieces.
The boutique stocks everything from business casual to night out, jeans to dresses, t-shirts to sweaters, bags to boots and shoes, skin care products, accessories and much more. They have their own line of clothing, as well as stock from local and world marque brands such as Boyish, Naif and Frnch.
Morra and Beaudoin are attentive listeners to customer needs and it is clear that they are passionate about what they do. The store itself, the beautiful clothes and accessories, the way they are displayed, their social-media profile – it all helps them craft an image as savvy, world-inspired fashionistas. It is truly an amazing experience being immersed in the divine aura of creation these two entrepreneurs have built together.
Interview done, I watch Beaudoin and Morra move through the store together, discussing things, pointing to displays, pulling clothing from the racks. It is evident that they are friends in harmony, close like sisters. I have also noted throughout the morning that despite the gloomy, dusk-coloured coat-and-glove day, despite it being the middle of the week when people are generally at home or in the office, customers never stop arriving. It occurs to me that viens avec moi is more than a destination; it is an oasis.
John De Genova is a poet and retired public servant with a penchant for small business.