Name: Michelle Rizzardo
Organization/Business: One of a Few
What do you do and how did you get here?
I have always been involved in retail even before I was legally allowed to work. When I was 13, I started working at Below The Belt and without knowing it, up to about age 27, I was doing the due diligence of being a retailer. I managed, bought, merchandized, took inventory and essentially did everything that needed to be done. When I graduated from UVIC, I went travelling for 3 years around Asia. Backpacking it, I would hand wash all my clothing and hang it out to dry. One day, I saw the sun shining through the different pieces of clothing and thought: ‘Wouldn’t that be cool if I could have my own store?’. I journaled about it, created a business plan, talked to friends and eventually, One of a Few was born. I love what I do and it has been a very organic process. I didn’t really set out to do this yet I also kind of did . It all happened in this weird and wonderful way.
If you had 15 minutes only, in Gastown, how would you spend it?
I would definitely walk around the neighbourhood. This is the most beautiful area of Vancouver. As a traveller, seeing the cobblestone streets of Gastown is incredible. There are a million great places to eat, get food and coffee, I can’t really decide on one!
What do you love about the neighbourhood?
The community. It is a large area yet the sense of community here is very strong. Especially when I opened in 2005, I had lots of locals coming by saying welcome and how nice it was to have us in the neighbourhood. A community such as ours is hard to find. We look out for and support each other. There is a fantastic pulse and energy here. Forget 15 minutes, you would need at least 3 days to properly experience Gastown! I love the energy, the way it looks and the history.
What’s your most memorable happy moment or experience in Gastown?
My happiest memory here was back in 2005, just before we opened. The day of the official opening, I tore off the brown paper that covered the big beautiful windows and golden sunshine lit up the room. Many curious people were finally able to peer in and see the world I had created. My heart was illuminated with joy. It was truly a magical moment for me.
What’s your philosophy for a good life?
Balance. You need balance. I have kids, I’m married and I run this shop. Figuring out the right equilibrium between friends, family and work is key. Without that, you’ll find yourself burned out, lost and frustrated. Remember to love, love yourself and all those around you.