Trip led to courage to start Scout

Gift shop opened just in time for Polish Festival

While globetrotting across Thailand, Nepal and Australia and overcoming many personal fears, Leah Eyles was inspired to start her own business.

“In Nepal I went paragliding,” she says. “I jumped off of a cliff attached to a guy and it was pretty scary actually and it was totally out of character for me to do something like that.

“So when I came back I sort of had a new confidence and knew that I could just face the fear and try to open my own store.”

After securing a property on Roncesvalles Avenue near Howard Park Avenue, Eyles opened her gift shop, which carries letterpress cards, handmade jewellery, bath and body products, handbags and home décor, in time for the annual Polish Festival in September.

“It was good for me to have that deadline but it was scary to open my doors during such a busy weekend,” she says, adding she tore down the drywall and ripped up the carpet to reveal the existing exposed brick and wood.

“So many other business owners had told me how welcoming this neighbourhood was and that first weekend I realized how true that is. So many people came into my store just to welcome me to into the neighbourhood and say ‘hi’.”

The name for the gift shop comes from a book she had read, which she says was The Road and not To Kill a Mockingbird like some people have suggested.

“I came across the word and it just kind of resonated with me,” she says. “Scout — that is like a perfect name for a store and it makes sense for what I do — scouting out products.”

Although some of the items she carries can be found scattered throughout the city, she says her store is different because she has everything under one roof.

“I sell a lot of unique things and I’ve spent a lot of time seeking these things out,” she says. “I want people to come in here and feel like it’s not like every other store they’ve been in — that I offer something different and unique.”

Eyles says she wanted to open in Roncesvalles Village because she loved the community feel and thought it would be a good fit since the area was home to bars, restaurants, flower and coffee shops, but was missing a gift shop.

“I just know the community,” she says. “They really support local businesses and also the fact that I wanted to bring in a lot of handmade and Canadian made I knew the community would support that too.”

She came across her building when she started scouting locations, but then thought she should continue looking because she felt uneasy picking the first place she came across.

“The size was perfect, the location was perfect and when I first wanted to put in an offer they had told me that somebody else did and that it was taken,” she says. “I was losing sleep over it, that was the space and then I just decided to call my realtor again to check in and he was like actually that didn’t work out so if you want to put an offer in, it’s open to you and I was like ‘perfect’.”

About this article:

By: Ann Ruppenstein
Posted: Nov 28 2011 7:13 pm
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto