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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sarah & Tom accessorizes a growing Halifax with Asian pop culture

The indie gift store chain has Nova Scotian roots, but no local outlet until now.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2018 at 2:19 PM

click to enlarge CHRIS MUISE
  • Chris Muise

If you’re on the hunt for a giant plush Pikachu, some colourful notebook stickers and a giant tube of wasabi that dispenses toilet paper...well, you’ve got some odd-yet-specific tastes. But good news for you! There’s a charming new shop in town that has you covered.

The doors of Sarah & Tom have only been open at its new 6448 Quinpool Road location for a month, but already it’s enjoying a great deal of business for a shop with such an esoteric catalogue of goods. “We have some slow periods, but most of the time it’s, like, super steady,” says Melanie Smith, one of the shop’s main staffers. “Saturdays are super busy.”

Smith says it can be hard to pin down in words exactly what Sarah & Tom deals in. “The consensus we’ve come up with is ‘Asian pop culture.’ We have a little bit of Korea, a little bit of Japan. We’re the first place in the Maritimes to sell K-Pop.”
Sarah & Tom, named for the married owners Sarah Milberry and Tom Yun, is something of a mom-and-pop franchise. Milberry and Yun met in South Korea while she was teaching English, and when the couple moved back to Milberry’s hometown of New Glasgow in 2007, they entertained dreams of opening up an Asian charms boutique.

“We knew we wanted to open a shop,” says Milberry. “But we knew we weren’t going to stay in Nova Scotia, because it probably wouldn’t take off here, we didn’t
think.”

The pair opened their first shop in Toronto in 2012, and since have expanded to a second Toronto location and a spot in Montreal. But as their family grew, Milberry felt homesick.

“I just wanted to be back on the east coast, be close to family,” she says. “We decided, ‘you know what, let’s try Halifax. Customers have been asking for it.’”
“Our Facebook page is just lit up all the time,” says Smith. “Tons of likes and comments and everything.”

“I like how we can buy these materials here,” says Siyoon Kim, a customer who brought her sister to check out the shop. “Nice to see that it’s getting more multicultural.”

Milberry credits the city’s multicultural growth for making an east coast location of the chain possible. “There’s more international students coming to universities here, there’s more families immigrating here. The product itself has become more international,” says Milberry. “It is more successful now, here, I believe, than if we tried to do it in 2007.”

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