Halifax boutique owner keeps store unique and independent

A 19-year-old woman drops out of university to go into the fashion business. A risky move, but it paid off.

By Payge Woodard

Johanna looking over the days receipts. (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News
Johanna looking over the day’s receipts. (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News

At the age of 19, she says just wasn’t feeling university, so she dropped out to go into the fashion business.

A risky move, but it paid off.

Raised in Halifax, Johanna Galipeau grew up watching Fashion TV with her mom. Her love for fashion and drawing led her to dream of becoming a designer. But working for a large retailer sparked a new interest.

After seeing 60 of each design in the back of the store, Galipeau wanted to start a business where young people could find unique and affordable clothing.

Galipeau says she wanted to start a store with a “mix of mall prices and the high-end feel of a boutique.”

The road to Sweet Pea

Dropping out of school, Galipeau, with the support of her parents took her business plan out and received a bank loan.

“When I look back now, I’m like, ‘My parents were insane,'” says Galipeau, now 26.

After she received the loan, Galipeau found a spot on Victoria Road and searched out the brands she wanted to represent her store.

Sweet Pea boutique was formed.

Sweet Pea’s racks are filled with pastels, lace and florals. Offering mostly dresses, Galipeau thought opening a second boutique with an edgier style was a good idea.

Display at Sweet Pea. (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)
Display at Sweet Pea. (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)

“Everyone really loved the brands but not everyone is a dress wearer,” says Galipeau, “So I opened Twisted because it was the edgier version but same brand, same price point, same type of feel. Just more casual.”

Twisted Muse

So three years after starting Sweet Pea, Galipeau established her second boutique, sister store, Twisted Muse.

As you step through a side door into Twisted Muse, Sweet Pea’s simplistic and elegant decor is soon swapped with studded boots, chunky jewelry and darker shades.

Display at Twisted Muse. (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)
Display at Twisted Muse. (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)

But owning two boutiques hasn’t been easy. In the beginning Galipeau had to work seven days a week. Now that her stores are more established she is able to take Sundays off, technically.

Although Sunday is supposed to be her day off, Galipeau comes in to open and close the store, and if things are busy, she’ll stay.

Galipeau says she’s always in contact with the store. There’s always something to be done.

Johanna changing a lightbulb after closing at Twisted Muse. (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)

“You just are always working so it’s not as glamorous as you may think, but it’s nice to know I’m my own boss and I can make my own hours.”

Finding unique designs can also be pricey. Picking each piece herself, Galipeau pays for buying trips to cities like Montreal and Toronto out of her own pocket.

Galipeau doesn’t mind the hard work though, she’s thankful she doesn’t have to wake up thinking, ‘Oh god, I have to go to work today,’ she says.

Being her own boss at 26, Galipeau feels it’s worth what she’s had to give up.

Growing up quickly

Starting her own business at such a young age didn’t come without sacrifice.

Galipeau says she had to mature faster than her friends. She wasn’t able to travel, for example. But she says she wouldn’t trade it. She’s happy with what she’s accomplished.

Keeping it independent

Two boutiques is enough for Galipeau. She says it’s “nice to have the character of the building and not be this cookie cutter box.”

The boutiques will remain a family-run, down-to-earth and independent business, says Galipeau.

Sweet Pea boutique . (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)
Sweet Pea boutique . (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)

The atmosphere

Offering a boyfriend waiting area, allowing pets in the store  and allowing people to finish up shopping after closing are all part of what make the boutiques differ from the  mall.

“It’s really magical,” says boutique employee Chya Mogerman, regarding working at the boutiques. She says it’s a lot of fun, even though she ends up spending all of her money there.

Galipeau enjoys working with the customers. Her grandfather was owner of a convenience store and her great-grandfather owned a restaurant.

“I think that client service has always been in my blood,” says Galipeau.

Galipeau’s style

As for her personal taste Galipeau says she’s a mix of both Sweet Pea and Twisted Muse fashions. “Somedays I’m super girly and somedays I’m not at all.”

Galipeau feels her versatile style has helped her with business.

“I might not wear everything but I love everything. I love the girly, I love the preppy, I love the grunge. I love and respect all those different kind of outlets for your look. So I think that helps when I’m buying, to not be kind of narrow minded.”

Display at Twisted Muse. (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)
Display at Twisted Muse. (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)

Looking forward

Galipeau says this past year, business has been good but could have been better. With poor weather conditions and construction causing road closures slowing business. Johanna hopes things will pick again up once construction ends.

Plans for doing minor renovations at Sweet Pea are also ahead.

“Sweet Pea could use a little punch,” says Galipeau, “We’re going to do some painting and put some new racks up and stuff. It’s time for a little bit of a facelift.”

Galipeau says she will remain in Halifax as she is content with what she has created here.

“I’m not that type of office person so I’m glad I created something that reflects my personality and what I like to do.”

Changes coming to Halifax crosswalks

Pedestrians can expect to see larger zebra crosswalks at intersections this summer.

By Payge Woodard

Pedestrians  cross intersection between Coburg rd and Robie st (Payge Woodard/ Peninsula News)
Pedestrians cross intersection between Coburg rd and Robie st (Payge Woodard/ Peninsula News)

The transportation standing committee of Halifax is taking action to keep pedestrians safer.

The committee is working on implementing 25 recommendations done by the crosswalk safety advisory committee. The recommendations include crosswalk flags, more education on crosswalk safety and more police enforcement.

Although the municipality has already begun to take action, some of the bigger changes, such as implementing larger zebra crosswalks, are being held off until the weather is warmer and the budget is ready.

Signs facing pedestrians reminding them to stop, look and listen will also be seen throughout Halifax in early summer.

Coun. Barry Dalrymple is chair of the crosswalk advisory committee and a member of the transportation standing committee. He says the idea to take on the issue of crosswalk safety began at a Halifax regional council meeting, where members began to feel as though too many pedestrians were being struck in crosswalks.

“We thought there should be something we could do about it,” he said.

(Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)
(Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)

After responsibility fell to the transportation advisory committee, the crosswalk committee was formed and worked out the 25 recommendations, which were eventually endorsed by council.

Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP have begun handing out reflective armbands at intersections and community meetings throughout Halifax. Programs such as the Distractions Kill campaign have also begun in order to increase safety awareness.

Previously, the municipality kept no statistics on pedestrian vehicle accidents. Now, committees, councillors and media are given daily updates on accidents involving pedestrians.

Bug problem persists at the Mount

Students living in Mount Saint Vincent University’s Assisi Hall have spent the year dealing with small nocturnal insects, known as silverfish, invading their dorm rooms.

By Payge Woodard

Silverfish in students sink at the Mount (photo submitted by Shea Woodard)
Silverfish in student’s sink at the Mount (photo submitted by Shea Woodard)

Students living in Mount Saint Vincent University’s Assisi Hall have spent the year dealing with small nocturnal insects, known as silverfish, invading their dorm rooms.

When the university’s facility staff first received complaints in the fall, they began a two step process to eliminate the pests.

Ben Boudreau, a media representative for the Mount, says five rooms in Assisi were affected. Students were first given sticky traps but when the problem persisted, a professional pest control company was brought in. This process was completed in mid-January.

Student holding sticky trap provided by the school. (Payge Woodward/Peninsula News)
Student holding sticky trap provided by the school (Payge Woodard/Peninsula News)

Brian Betts, owner of Nova Scotia’s Ace Pest Control, describes silverfish as a nuisance pest that doesn’t bite or sting. He says they are attracted to moisture, old books and cardboard.

Ace wasn’t the company brought in to deal with the bugs. Betts says a thorough job is needed due to the hot water system of dorms.

“When you’re dealing with silverfish in a dorm or anything like that, you’re talking about a hot water heated building, what happens is that spectrum of temperature, plus the fact it’s a hot water system, the silverfish seem to be more prevalent and what it does is let them travel more readily . . . because they can go from unit to unit through the wallboards,” says Betts.

Although harmless, the silverfish have been an annoyance to students who’ve paid over $5,000 a year to live in Assisi. Betts says completely getting rid of silverfish in a large building like Assisi can be a stretch, but it is possible to significantly decrease their numbers.

Silverfish reappearing

Students living in Assisi say silverfish have been returning since a pest control company was brought in.

First year student Kennedy Jessome noticed silverfish in her dorm’s sink and on her desk in October and says she felt disgusted.

“I was worried that I would wake up and have them crawling all around my room,” says Jessome.

When she arrived back to her dorm after Christmas break in January, Jessome says she had no problem with silverfish but arriving back after reading week she has begun to spot them in her room again.

Fellow student, Genie Gotgieter isn’t happy with finding silverfish in her room either but says there have been significantly less this semester.

“They’re just annoying,” says Gotgieter.

Boudreau says at this time no more complaints have been made regarding silverfish but assures the university will take action if any complaints are recorded.

“If students are noticing these issues, reports will quickly be assessed and addressed by facilities,” says Boudreau.