The secret of my success

We asked seven veteran Halifax entrepreneurs to share behind-the-scenes insights on their businesses, as well as the challenges and successes of doing business here.

Doug Gaudet of Gaudet Optical - RILEY SMITH
Doug Gaudet of Gaudet Optical

Gaudet Optical
6465 Quinpool Road, 423-6255
Doug Gaudet, owner

We currently deal with 75 international frame-makers, mainly based in Europe, where our profession has a very proud and established heritage. We’re known for taking risks and promoting design, with the mantra “a great pair of eyeglasses is the best accessory you can possibly have.

We just wrapped our 24th year of business in a very competitive industry. Our practice is driven purely by word-of-mouth, the most beautiful and honest form of advertising.

The most significant is the constant requirement to be progressive and to be a leader in our profession.

Mimi Fautley of The Loop - RILEY SMITH
Mimi Fautley of The Loop

The Loop
1547 Barrington Street, 429-5667
Mimi Fautley, co-owner

We’re still all about knitting, but we’re seeing needle felting become popular, ways of sculpting unspun fibres into things. We’ve seen an explosion of that. We’re also seeing people getting into spinning their own yarns.

The way a community has formed here. We’re a place where people learn stuff, get together. It’s more than a business, it’s a community centre. We’ve made an effort to source out high quality local products, and the interest in that locally is really growing [though] it still remains that tourists are the most interested in local goods.

One of the major challenges for us in our desire to be downtown, not really matched by the city’s desire to make downtown awesome. Small business has been working its ass off to make Barrington work.

Joanne David of Joanne David Accessories - ANGELA GZOWSKI
Joanne David of Joanne David Accessories

Joanne David Accessories
1276 Barrington Street, 404-1276
Joanne David, owner

The FitFlop. The designer is a Canadian woman and we continue to retail more than anyone. They’re calling it the world’s smartest trainer. And we offer Diva cards. You spend $250 you get $25 dollars back with the card.

The people of Halifax really love their city. They’d rather support someone local than go to Town Shoes. They know their money is staying in town, they know the staff are all local. It’s nice to see that support.

Smaller and local businesses don’t have the purchasing power of larger companies. A handbag manufacturer would rather sell to Winners’ 25 stores than to my smaller business. It’s really hard to compete.

Pat Harland (left, with Wendy) and Alex Strum of Soled Out Sneaker Boutique - ANGELA GZOWSKI
Pat Harland (left, with Wendy) and Alex Strum of Soled Out Sneaker Boutique

Soled Out Sneaker Boutique
1587 Dresden Row, 444-8555 Alex Strum, co-owner with Pat Harland

In the new year we will be continuing again with Converse, as well as a few other classic sneaker brands that have been heavily requested.

Being that we are one of the only boutiques in Eastern Canada that carry the type of product we have, we must maintain close relationships with the companies we deal with. This helps us ensure that we have access to the level of product that is not found elsewhere. 

Although we have moved a little further away from the convenience of Spring Garden Road, we have been able to maintain a lot of our customer base.

Denise Coulter of henhouse - RILEY SMITH
Denise Coulter of henhouse


5533 Young Street, 423-4499
Denise Coulter, co-owner

Our main focus is custom furniture. We design locally and make by hand, specifically hand-crafted finishes, so we’re known for quality furniture.

We would say that we’re still here after 10 years, that’s a success, two women business owners. We have grown and are happy in the Hydrostone area. And being able to graduate from creating furniture to creating kitchens.

Along with many other businesses, it’s the economy. It’s harder to expand and people are being more cautious. Our products are built to last forever, so I hope that people see the value in local, well-made goods.

Ariz David of Cucina Moderna - RILEY SMITH
Ariz David of Cucina Moderna

Cucina Moderna
Sunnyside Mall, 1595 Bedford Highway, 835-9560 and 1535 Dresden Row, 423-9562
Ariz David, owner

We’re more and more being known as the specialty store for cookware, espresso machines and kitchenware.

We ran a survey to our customers and 550 responded. Some of the questions we asked were: Are we better than online? Are we better than the big box stores? Eighty percent of our customers thought we were, in customer service, product knowledge and price.

Because my core store is downtown, everyone would like to see more activity in the downtown, whether it’s investment or development.

Wendy Friedman of Biscuit General Store - RILEY SMITH
Wendy Friedman of Biscuit General Store

Biscuit General Store
1661 Argyle Street, 425-5436
Wendy Friedman, owner

What I always say is Biscuit is the brand. We sell so many things, it’s the mix. People know that we’ve done the legwork, we speak to our demographic. And I feel good that we support mostly Canadian designers.

We have a really high employee retention rate, which is unusual for retail. We have a real esprit de corps among the staff that I’m proud of. They feel valued and dignified.

I started up with no money. The first few years were tough for that. And our neighbours have been challenging. We’ve had some fly-by-night nightclubs above us. When it was Rain, we got flooded 30 times. [Rain] was literal.