Whether you’re shopping in Ottawa for something special for yourself or you’re with a group of girlfriends for a getaway, you’ll want to include Workshop Studio & Boutique on your list of stores to visit in Canada’s Capital.
Located at 242 Dalhousie Street in the busy ByWard Market neighbourhood, this bright and airy boutique is worth a visit to find something unique that is made by a female Canadian designer. And this store is just about as Canadian as you can get, as its co-owners actually met on Canada Day about a decade ago!
“We met on Canada Day setting up our tents to sell [items] outside and we kind of got caught in a crazy downpour and it kind of spawned our friendship,” Workshop co-owner Christina Ballhorn said in an interview with Ottawa Tourism.
According to Ballhorn, on that rainy day, her and Bridget Remai, Workshop’s other co-owner, exchanged ideas about one day having a store of their own that would offer handmade and fair trade items crafted by local as well as Canadian designers. She added that they thought their own space in Ottawa would help them showcase not only their own creations, but those of other Ottawa artists and a few more from around the world. “We thought a good way to do it would be to open our own boutique,” she said.
Today, Ballhorn said, 99 per cent of the products Workshop offers are handmade in Canada by independent women designers. At Workshop, Ballhorn said, you’ll be able to browse through clothing, jewellery and accessory pieces by more than 150 Canadian designers. “That’s kind of what we’ve been doing for 10 years and we’ve stayed true to that,” she said.
But in addition to the Canadian-made pieces, Ballhorn noted that Workshop offers a few small United States-based clothing lines as well as a selection of fair trade items. “But pretty much everything in our shop is Canadian-made and made by a small independent line,” she said. “That’s something you’re not going to find in other cities.”
To add to Workshop’s uniqueness, you’ll also find a working design studio in its back corner, where various accessories as well as t-shirts are made.
Ballhorn noted that as people shop, they can watch as handmade jewellery, clothing and other items are created. She added that the studio portion of the boutique is “relatively new,” having only been in place for a year. “You see people creating and I think that really emphasizes our support and our interest in locally handmade products.” She noted that clients are usually curious and excited about the design processes.
In terms of a shopping experience, Ballhorn said Workshop offers a great selection of Canadian designers, a well-informed and helpful staff, as well as a casual atmosphere. “We’re all about having a great customer experience and making sure that when people come in, the experience is like shopping in your best friend’s closet,” she said, adding the store carries a wide range of styles and sizes from extra-small to extra-large. You’ll also find kids’ clothing made by a Montreal-based line.
Ballhorn also encourages customers to visit Workshop often as there’s always something new. “It’s constantly changing depending on the season,” she said, noting that fall and winter give way to new cozy items such as sweaters and hats.
In terms of clientele, Ballhorn said Workshop attracts primarily women who are interested in supporting local designers and finding something different that’s “off the beaten path.” She added customers are typically in the mid-twenties to mid-sixties age range. “We have quite a wide range and we carry a lot of different lines,” Ballhorn said.
Workshop is open seven days a week; Monday to Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m.
But you don’t have to wait until you’re in Ottawa to see what Workshop has to offer. Ballhorn noted that the studio and boutique has recently launched an online store. “People can also shop online and check out what we’re doing here,” she said. Ballhorn added that Workshop is active on social media as well across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Workshop is only one of the many great stores that line the streets of the ByWard Market neighbourhood as well as the higher-end Sussex Drive, where you can find Canadian designers such as Richard Robinson and Jana Kalous, among others.
Thinking of coming to Ottawa to shop? Consider booking Ottawa Tourism’s Shop, Dine & Unwind package, which includes accommodations as well as a CF Rideau Centre Savings Directory. CF Rideau Centre is home to a new Nordstrom department store and is downtown Ottawa’s indoor shopping mall!
Come to Ottawa, shop until you drop, then take in some of the sights. Browse Ottawa Tourism’s website for more ideas on what to see and do in the capital!