There’s nothing commonplace about Stratford’s Gruv clothing store.
A post on Gruv’s Facebook page reads: “Fall is floating in! Gorgeous new arrivals for y’all this week, Gentle Fawn, Glamorous, Buffalo, Orb….sweaters, jeans, scarves….all types of lovelies to add to your wardrobe now that we’re feeling a chill in the air again!”Packed in alongside dozens of other stores on the Festival City’s main drag, the stylish shop stands out. And though independent boutiques too often get a reputation for exclusively catering to a haute crowd, Gruv’s unpretentious offerings are a welcomed departure from the norm.
“I feel like we do fill a niche. It is a boutique and it is unique and it’s not all stuff you’d find in malls,” said Sally Hutchison, owner of Gruv. “I always felt there was a need for this type of store in Stratford downtown.”
In a word, the clothing at Gruv has flare, a mix of relaxed, casual, vintage and boho-inspired style. Hutchison chooses to stock clothes that take a trendy spin on old classics. In the store, understated wardrobe staples like knit sweaters and jeans sit alongside bold accessories and chic shoes.
“We know our people and we try to push a few new things in every season,” said Hutchison, who carries men’s and ladies apparel. “I wanted it to be fun and approachable and friendly, that’s the kind of vibe we want to create.”
Hutchison seeks out lesser-known boutique brands and prides herself on introducing new designers to her customers. And since she doesn’t stock her store with piles of duplicates, it’s unlikely you’ll see another person walking around town in the same outfit.
Though Gruv’s au courant clothing and accessories are the focal point of any visit, the store itself is eclectic, welcoming and unabashedly unique. The shop exudes art deco glamour – from the vintage phone near the till to the tin ceiling and antique wood floors.
“It’s always been my favourite design period,” said Hutchison. “I liked the contrast of stylish, fashion-forward clothes with the old style décor. I liked that juxtaposition.”
Of course, Gruv wouldn’t be complete without its namesake tunes. Customers can rock out in the racks to a mixed bag of music.
“Sometimes it’s 80’s sing along, sometimes it’s reggae, sometimes it’s rat pack type stuff, disco revival,” said Hutchison. “It just depends on the day, we go all over the place.”
Hutchison, who has always had a passion for retail, decided to strike out on her own after working as a manager and buyer for a local shoe store for many years.
“I’d been there for 11 years and it was time for me to move on and do my own thing,” she said.
Hutchison opened Gruv in 2002 and moved to a new 2000 square foot location years later when the store took off. Nowadays, Gruv is something of a family affair for Hutchison, who enlists the help of her daughters Holly, 20, and Hannah, 17, help her run things around the store.
And though she’s owned and operated Gruv for more than a decade, and is responsible for every aspect of the store – from the bookkeeping to buying – Hutchison said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s still fun, it’s still something I’m passionate about, it hasn’t become drudgery or something I’m bored with,” she said. “I enjoy all of it.”