Looking back on 5 Years of Province Apothecary
Photo by Arden Wray
This weekend we are celebrating 5 years of Province Apothecary! From it’s start in Julie’s kitchen to the now bustling shop, studio and clinic, it’s amazing to reflect on our growth and the amazing customers that have grown with us.
Creative Director and employee of three and a half years Anna sat down with Julie to talk about the journey she's taken over the last 5 years.
How did PA first ?
When I started PA, I had been working on having a company for over 2 years. I had initially called it J.A.C Skincare for Julie Anne Clark. I had developed 3 separate lines- one for everyday, for men and one for mature skin. I wasn’t 100% into the name, JAC, and was feeling discouraged until I was lucky enough to start working with some amazing + talented friends. They came up with the name Province Apothecary because I was obsessed with sourcing ingredients from each province. Once this happened we started the design process and just couldn’t stop! Things felt like they were finally working and PA was born.
How did you start the company in your apartment?
After finishing school, I graduated as an Aromatherapist, Reflexologist and Holistic Health Practitioner. I loved giving facials and custom blending serums for people, so I opened up my apartment and made a small treatment space in one of the bedrooms. Luckily the apartment is pretty big, so there was plenty of space for treatments and making products. Instead of finding clothes in my closets, you'd find oils, clays, maple sugar, oat flour. Looking back it was slightly crazy.
I worked out of my house while waitressing to pay the bills. I would make products in the morning + fulfill orders, see clients in the afternoon and then waitress at night. Every weekend I would try and sell at a flea market or a pop-up shop. I was definitely burning the candle at both ends but I loved helping people with their skin and this is still my favourite part of the job today.
It makes me so happy that our current store is only a block away from my apartment, Dundas West is really the birthplace of PA!
Who were your first clients?
My first clients were my friends. Facials were free or $20 when I started and I just wanted to get more and more practice. I remember giving all my friends giftcards to give to their friends. Slowly, I started seeing more and more people and my facial network started growing. I felt so lucky if I got to see 2 clients in a row!
When did you move out of your apartment?
Right after I shipped the last box of our 800 piece order to urban outfitters I walked over to see my friend Lo at Sole Survivor and told her how I was outgrowing my apartment. Luckily she knew of the perfect place for me, on the 3rd floor of the building she was in in Kensington Market. We moved into 16 Kensington Ave in March, 2013. It was super cute and tiny, one small hallway we used to get from the office to the treatment rooms and it was our makeshift store. We built custom tiny shelves for all of the products. It was amazing location, but so small that production had to be cautious of making noise while treatments were going on.
For 2 years all production, shipping and treatments took place at Kensington. We loved the community and busy market vibe, and was very sad to leave.
We moved into our store front on Dundas St west last May and we are quickly outgrowing it!
We moved our treatment space 30 seconds down the street in August 2016. Kensington wasn’t far but I was finding having 2 locations difficult to manage.
How has PA grown?
PA has grown so much in 5 years, it’s more than I could have ever imagined and I was so delighted and grateful!
I started it on my own in my house, and brought on a few friends in the first 2 years to help me here and there with making products and packing orders. When we moved to Kensington I hired 2 full time employees and our 1st Holistic Aesthetcian, Cassandra! And then we quickly kept growing. My husband even worked for me for a while, right before we got married. I took on a business partner, Natalie, in 2016 who has taken over sales and operations. So much of our growth in the last year and a half has been thanks to Natalie! She arrived at the perfect moment, PA was in need to some sales and management expertise. Now we have two locations and a team of 18 women and I am so inspired by their passion and energy!
What hasn’t changed in 5 years?
Amazingly the products haven’t changed much in 5 years. We make everything by hand still, but now we some awesome filling and labelling machines. Our ingredients are still the highest quality and we have been able to work closely with farmers and distillers to get the best. We have been able to enrich our community and give back to the plant. We have become a green certified company.
And I am even more inspired by all of our amazing customers and clients and strive to bring you more education and knowledge!
What’s next for PA?
We can’t wait to launch our newest product, our Daily Glow Facial Dry Brush. We have been working on it for over a year and it’s finally here! We launch it October 19th, so stay tuned!
I’ve just bought a farm with my husband and we can’t wait to plan our garden for next year. This is an exciting new adventure for PA. For the last two years I’ve been studying Medical Herbalism and I have fallen in love with growing and harvesting plants myself and making healing tinctures and teas. So I can’t wait to have space to grow, experiment and learn.
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