Editors’ Note: A big thank you to Catalina’s for donating such a lovely vintage wedding dress and shoes to our Halloween shoot. We couldn’t have made this issue what it was without their generosity! We encourage those with an affinity for vintage clothing, furniture and other miscellaneous things to check out Catalina’s.
“A magical, eclectic delight to the senses,” is the response elicited from Catalina, owner of Catalina’s Barbeside Salon and Vintage Store, when asked to describe her space in a few words. Arthur sat down with Catalina to talk about her success, her business philosophy and what she has planned next for downtown Peterborough.
The changing faces of Catalina’s
Currently a bar/venue/vintage shop, Catalina’s had seen a multitude of change over the 18 years it has been open in Peterborough. Its initial incarnation as a hair salon was started out of necessity. “I had cut hair for a while, and my partner was pregnant with our son, so I started looking for a place and found this huge space on George Street for $650 a month. Coming from Vancouver, rent like that was too good to pass up.” So it began as a funky hair salon, but it wasn’t long before Catalina realized it could be so much more. As a creative person Catalina was always bringing in “bits and pieces” of vintage furniture sourced from auctions or private collections. The transition into selling those pieces happened organically. “My customers were always commenting on how much they liked certain pieces or the style. My response was always “You can buy it!”” So the business grew, slowly evolving over time to include vintage clothing, new clothing, furniture and curios, always evolving and changing as Catalina’s vision and passions did. Over time the shop moved from George Street to its current location on Hunter Street but the philosophy remained the same: “I do what I love. It’s tied to me.” Catalina even jokes that the only thing she is “consistent in is change and transformation.”
Though she still cuts hair, Catalina has sold the salon portion of her business. She had moved it to Water Street when a vacancy arose to make room in her crowded Hunter Street location and finally sold it to her “right hand person.” She explains this as the organic change in her business attitudes, after having built up the salon, to step back and give her former employee a chance to run the business for herself and build something of her own.
The same principal applies to the vintage garments side of her business which she has since shipped out of the Hunter St location to make room for a performance space. The vintage apparel is now sold in the storefront which was formerly Dixon’s Used Books at 393 Water Street. When asked why she decided to take on yet another storefront her response was simple, “I love to work and see my creative projects become viable, so when I see an opportunity I seize it.” The beautiful dress which graces our zombie model on the cover was generously lent to us from Catalina’s vintage collection.
Perhaps the most drastic change in the Catalina’s aesthetic, the addition of the bar, has been brewing since 2011. It was in that year that the government began offering salons the ability to apply for liquor licenses. “I was always holding events in the space and having to apply for special permits to serve alcohol. It just made sense to get licensed once it became an option.” Just don’t expect an endless selection. The bar stocks classic quality beverages, and is hoping to have two beer taps installed soon. “One for Guinness and the other something local. I’m not catering to limitless choice. Everything is quality and not over the top. It’s things I like.”
During the discussion with Catalina one thing becomes abundantly clear: the driving force behind her business and its many transformations is to create beauty. It is a word and a topic that comes up over and over again in our conversation. When describing the aesthetic of her shop she explains that she wanted to, “create a place where beauty is esteemed. The pursuit of beauty is my life. Not in a shallow or obvious way.” Gazing around at the vintage pieces surrounding us she explains, “When you work with discarded objects, clean them up, care for them their beauty becomes obvious. The same goes for human beings in a way. You can give them a fresh way of looking at themselves, not just on the outside, by caring for them and building them up or helping them see themselves the way they always imagined.”
Even in situating the bar Catalina has found ways of bringing elements of design into the process. The stage and speakers are placed in such a way that those who want to be up close and personal with the performance get the full experience while others who would prefer to hang out and enjoy conversations can mingle comfortably in the bar area. Catalina explains that beauty and design were paramount in creating this curated space and that input from experienced friends and customers helped greatly in the success of the design. The result is the most unique bar in town, the only place you can grab a drink, watch a performance and buy an end table in the same night.
Catalina’s main words of wisdom for those thinking about building a business is to take it slow. After all, she has been building her business here in Peterborough for over 18 years. As she pointed out, the addition of the bar to her salon/vintage shop has been coming for 6 years, ever since licensing became an option. Perhaps the second most important piece of advice she has to offer is, “Don’t invest a lot of your own money! Start small and grow it, as you money grows.” If you reach too far too fast you will simply end up with massive debt and a failed enterprise.
When it is pointed out that she is somewhat of a rarity as a creative person who has managed to build a successful business without losing sight of her artistic sensibilities, she shrugs it off. “As a businessperson I go by feel and intuition; as I develop as a person and explore my interests, the business grows. That’s just my insanity! Or maybe it’s what keeps me sane, always having so much to do.”
Her final word on building a business is this. “You’re never going to feel totally prepared to start a business, but the act of doing it, of making mistakes, getting up, brushing yourself off and learning from them will drive you forward. If you genuinely like it there should be enough spark to bring people in.”
On “being done”
Over the course of 18 years Catalina’s has been in a constant state of metamorphosis, from caterpillar to chrysalis to pupa to butterfly and back again. She even jokes that customers never know what to expect when they walk through the door. One of the questions she says she gets asked frequently is “When will you be done?” Her answer embodies the entire philosophy of her beautiful and constantly changing business: “Being done is not the point.
We are thankful for that, because Catalina’s in all of its many iterations has brought beauty, style and substance to downtown Peterborough and will continue to do so, in one form or another for years to come.