By Adriana Añon
The enticing new window displays at 791 Bank Street might have already piqued your curiosity – they show just a glimpse of what’s for sale inside Penelope Jones & Company, a new store that opened in October at the corner of Bank and Third Avenue.
The windows showcase an eclectic mix of vintage and antique pieces, sparkly crystal, unique lamps and varied gifts. “There’s a bit of everything here and it’s constantly changing,” said owner Heather Scott.
Scott was inspired by the concept of stores she has visited across the southern U.S. that seem to sell a lifestyle. Hers is neither exclusively an antique store nor gift store nor thrift shop; rather it seeks to offer a perspective on the good life with a mix of new and old objects that share the unifying theme of beauty. You can find a selection of gifts and paper products like cards, calendars and puzzles from the Cavallini line out of San Francisco. You might instead be drawn to a chandelier or even that console table perfect for an entryway. With prices that run from $10 to $6,000, Scott thinks her clientele is bound to find something they can afford.
Scott feels we should be nicer to ourselves “and after the pandemic,” she says, “it’s about the small things.” Even if people come into the store just to get ideas and browse, she is hoping to inspire them to surround themselves with beauty. For now, the store is open Wednesday to Friday 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday 12–5 p.m. The shop welcomes a maximum of five customers at a time to accommodate social distancing. Scott expects hours may change closer to the holiday season; updates about the shop can be found on its Instagram account, @penelopejonesco.791.
Before going out on her own as an entrepreneur, Scott worked for Holt Renfrew for 20 years. She moved from Winnipeg to Ottawa in 2000 and served as general manager of the Sparks Street store for three years. She learned a lot at Holt Renfrew about customer service and making shoppers feel welcome. The name of her new store comes from those years – whenever an RSVP was needed for a corporate event, the company asked people to address their response to “Penelope Jones.” That name stuck with Scott. “If I’m ever opening a store,” she used to tell her husband, “I’m going to call it Penelope Jones.”
A collector since her early 20s, Scott was always drawn to beautiful things, many of which have found their way into the stock at Penelope Jones & Company. In early 2019, after her family moved back to Ottawa from Toronto, Scott started looking for a location to make her life-long dream of opening a store a reality. Unable to find the right place, she put the dream on hold just as the pandemic hit.
When she finally found her new spot in the Glebe, she liked it instantly. She was attracted to the neighbourhood for its lively lifestyle and its devotion to recycling and refurbishing. She carries a lot of things that have a past life and seek a new life in a different home, and she’s also enthusiastic about the way thrifting is gaining popularity among young people. So far, she’s had a smooth transition into the new space and credits local business owners for making her feel immediately welcome and part of the community.
Scott has plenty of merchandise and continues to learn daily about running her business as she works to get a feel for what shoppers are drawn to. In future, she may be open to discussing consignment opportunities. She would also love to give back to the community and has an idea for the holiday season – she hopes to set up a bin so people can make donations for those in need.
“I want people to come in and find a treat for themselves,” says Scott. She doesn’t know if it will be a piece of framed art, a dog puzzle or a chair, but she thinks part of the fun is to come and discover. After tasting the Bequet Salted Caramels she carries, both sweet and velvety, I know I will return for more. Scott hopes that in her carefully curated assortment of delights, her customers will find something interesting every single time they visit.
Adriana Añon is a writer, teacher and Glebe enthusiast.