July 27 2018
Neighbourhood Profile: Rose and Leon from Poppy & Rye and House of McLaren
Written by Gastown Admin
Name: Rose Catanzaro
Organization/Business: Poppy & Rye
Name: Leon Charles
Organization/Business: House of McLaren
What do you do and how did you get here?
Rose: I used to own a small chain of clothing stores called Jack & Jill. During a prolonged illness, I decided to shut down my business, putting my health first. I promised myself that I would never get into retail again. A few years passed and during a day out on Water Street, I saw this building with its brick walls and bright open windows. Now three years later, and I’m a retail business owner, all over again.
Leon: I was friends with the original owner, Sheena, who opened the House of McLaren in 1983. Ever since that day I first walked into the shop, I fell in love with the tartan ties, the kilts and the Scottish heritage, always feeling a sense of comfort within its walls. In late 2014, Sheena passed away, and the future of the shop was in question. I felt the store should continue, and though the process of sorting thorough her will, I fought to keep House of McLaren open and for it to remain at home in Gastown. I now run the shop, and I couldn’t be happier coming here everyday.
What inspired the name and concept?
Rose: Poppy & Rye is a children’s book, and I suppose I have this thing for kid’s books, as Jack & Jill is also one. They’re my favourite kind of books.
Leon: Sheena’s last name was McLaren. Her memory lives on through the shop and I hope it will always remain so.
If you had 15 minutes only, in Gastown, how would you spend it?
Leon: I would cruise around the neighbourhood. I don’t always get the chance to, and Gastown changes so often. I’d go for a stroll to check out all the new stores and restaurants as it’s fun to see who’s here and what they are up to.
Rose: Besides eat and drink? Probably eat and drink. I love The Flying Pig, Pourhouse, Bauhaus, and it’s obvious we have some of the best restaurants around.
What do you like about Gastown?
Leon: I like the character of the neighbourhood. Gastown is a destination, and people come here because of that. They know specifically what they want – food, drinks, coffee, clothing, home decor etc and they come here because this is the place to get the best of all that.
Rose: The live music in Gastown is amazing, especially now at the Pourhouse where there’s live music almost every night.
What’s your most memorable happy moment or experience in Gastown?
Leon: I remember being in the House of McLaren and a woman came into the store with a card that had been given to her by Sheena. It had been many years before and she wanted to come back and visit the store once again. There was another time when I had returned to the shop and Sheena was fitting a young man with a kilt for an upcoming wedding he was attending. Turns out it was Justin Trudeau.
Rose: Everyday is a great day. We both come here and open up our shops together in the morning, and I am grateful to have a business in Gastown and to share the space with Leon.
What’s your philosophy for a good life?
Leon: I can tell you what Rose’s is: it’s being an eternal optimist. She always looks on the bright side and believes in the saying “Don’t worry, be happy”.
Rose: Leon is a preacher of positivity by nature. He should be a motivational speaker.