It is October 23rd, 2014 and I am comfortably standing outside of Norwood Clothing Shop in Regina, Saskatchewan in a t-shirt. Earlier this week it was too warm to wear a sweater while walking in the city sunshine. Small talk about weather is universal but holds specific weight in an agricultural community like Saskatchewan. Each year, it seems to me, the seasons creep forward, pushing summer into late October and winter all the way to May and June.
We find ourselves embraced in a week of unseasonable warmth to soften us up before the depths of another arctic December. Such weather is written into the character of a northern person, whether they curse the arctic freeze or not. Three years ago winter was non-existent; bare and dirty toboggan hills, and outdoor rinks made of slush and gravel. Two winters, there was the most snow in Saskatchewan since they began keeping records. Last winter saw weeks straight of record-breakingly offensive temperatures, as predicted by the all-knowing and prophetic Farmer’s Almanac. The eternal darkness and the life-threatening temperatures offer common ground for all who endure and enjoy it, but this weather adversely affects certain populations in our cities more than others. Regardless whether the winter is one of record warmth, record snowfall, or record lows, the season is cold and unforgiving.
Beginning this October and throughout the winter, every Norwood-brand toque sold at the shop will provide a toque to a community member at Carmichael Outreach. Carmichael is a community-based organization in downtown Regina offering dignity and humanity to the most marginalized in the city with a warm place to spend the day, a cup of coffee, a meal, as well as other harm reduction programs. For 25 years Carmichael has been a community advocate, with programs such as no-cost hygiene items, used clothing, baby needs, art programs, and housing assistance.
Support your community by helping a neighbour stay warm this unpredictable winter season. We encourage you to learn more about Carmichael Outreach and other community-based organizations to see how you can more directly participate in their daily programs.
An interesting look into the start to finish process of the accessories from Brooklyn based The Hill-side.
A well-dressed woman of at least seventy years entered the shop today. She had never been in before. Her eyes scanned the merchandise, looking for the familiar cuts and colours of female garments which hang from two racks along the east windows. She poked around, lifted a few hangers, and then finally noticed the large wood saw hiding in the corner behind the foot-powered Singer sewing machine. Her eyes warmed seeing a familiar tool while standing in a place in which she had never set foot before. “We used to have a saw like that, back in the farm in Norway,” she said with a Scandinavian turn in her tongue. “It was always a bit too big for me, but for my brother who was four years older than me, he could use it no problem.” She looked around the shop and found other items that reminded her of home. “We had a summer farm in in Norway, and a winter farm. I was the youngest of four and when my older brothers and sister had left I would have to bike to neighbours houses to help out. I would have to bike from the summer farm to the winter farm and it would take an hour and a half. If we could get there in an hour and a half, on those bikes we could go, go, go!” We continued to talk of places with agricultural roots, as everyone with the roots of several generations in Saskatchewan has a close relative who worked the land, or continues to do so.
“June 13th, I don’t know how, but the cows always knew.” She spoke of how her parents would always move their cows from one pasture to another on June 13th, and even if she and her family weren’t ready on the thirteenth, the cows somehow knew the date. They started walking the correct way, crossing highways with no worry or care. In a wave of remembrance, she recalled a horse she had that could plow a field without any help of her own. “It would go straight as can be, you could pull out a tape measure if you wanted to.” It was here, she told me, she learned work ethic.
Norwood is a block away from a major retirement home in the downtown core of Regina, Saskatchewan. Retired faces become familiar as they walk past the window or stop in for a visit, often at the same time each day. It is evident who is simply going for summer strolls, pushing their walkers over cracks in the sidewalk, and those who are cruising their motorized scooters to the farmers market for a massive bag of fresh corn, and those who are wandering off for the day, unsure of where or why or what. One day last summer Ken Block sat down on the far end of our bench outside. The bench slowly began to tip, so I ran outside to sit on the other end so he didn’t end up on the sidewalk. We talked for over an hour. He once owned Block’s Saw and Cycle on the North end of Winnipeg Street in Regina. His shop, as the name suggests, sold saws and bicycle parts for years before he decided to get out of the business and sold it to two business partners. “They didn’t last long, they were bad with customers. Always disagreeing, had a dirty shop, eventually one of the partners bought out the other and then he lasted less than a year.” He also retold stories of him and his brother riding bikes on the farm, moving to the city and eventually starting up his shop. He told me of the political roots of the hardware shop that once occupied the space where Norwood now sits. Now Block’s Saw and Cycle rests empty on the industrial edge of a boom city.
Most of Norwood’s clothing rests on antiques collected primarily throughout the prairies. Pieces left behind at farms and in basements of retirees that eventually end up in garage sales and auctions. These items have lasted decades, and thus, continue to tell a story, or incite stories in those who have lived through much more than any inanimate object. These kinds of people are invaluable sources of wisdom as we watch our city transform from small farming community to a large boom town. Their stories help keep us grounded.
History learned from books is invaluable. Used physical objects are noteworthy because they connect current owners to the previous owners through stories, bringing life to dead objects. Experiences shared between the wise and the young, however, even if these experiences are expressed in memories fogged by decades, strengthen the connection to the past, thus improving our ability to make effective decisions in the present.
The woman continued to look around the shop while I helped other customers with ball caps. She made a joke to herself, called me ‘sir’, and laughed a while, then headed towards the door. “I’ll come back when I have more time,” she said. “You’ll be able to write a book, I have lots more stories.”
A strong belt of temperate rainforest lines the entire western coast of British Columbia. This is one of the wettest non-tropical areas in the world, an area that holds up to one-quarter of the world’s temperate coastal rainforests, according to Hinterland Who’s Who, whose soft flute song I can still hear between lunchtime cartoons as a kid. These rainforests are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.
In this ecosystem grows the Sitka Spruce, a tall coniferous evergreen that is one of the few species known to grow over 300 feet tall. Victoria clothing company Sitka takes its name from this grand species of tree. Also native to the forests of Vancouver Island, Sitka’s “key values are derived from their reverence to the natural world.” And although every person—whether living in a city or posted up in a cabin in the woods—is surrounded by the natural world, Sitka pulls so strongly from its surroundings in brand functionality and mentality, likely because of the absolute importance their environment is to the local peoples’ recreational and everyday lives, but also to the health of the entire world. The brand puts an emphasis on social and environmental responsibility, admitting that these are “loosely coined terms”, but explains their manufacturing, environmental, and material decisions in great detail on their Corporate Responsibility page. Sitka is a brand closely tied to the natural environment which surrounds it, and this is evident in the simplicity and natural feeling of their product and the conscience of their collective decisions.
-Nic Olson, ballsofrice.wordpress.com
I like to know where my clothing came from. Where it was manufactured, where the company hails from, where they got the materials to make what will eventually cover my body. A person’s interests, hobbies, occupation, values can often be calculated simply from their clothing. I also like to have things last a long time. When I know the history and details of a product, I can know if the product aligns with my interests, hobbies, occupation, and values. When I know the manufacturing process I will have an understanding of whether or not the product will last long.
Red Wing Shoes have been manufactured in the city of Red Wing in the southeast of Minnesota for over 100 years. They openly share the manufacturing process of their boots on the journal section of their website and through their Instagram posts. They show the tannery at which their leather is prepared. Red Wing proudly makes their boots in the USA, and if properly cared for, this American-made footwear can last a decade or more. But as with any other footwear that is expected to last, they must be properly cared for. The below are photographs taken in shop of a pair of 875 Oro-iginals being softened up with Red Wing Boot Oil, a natural blend of Pine Pitch and Mink Oil which has a scent like what you fantasize the factory in Minnesota has permanently, like you wish your house could always smell like. Regular cleaning, oiling, and conditioning is recommended by the manufacturers for long-life of a Red Wing Boot. As they say on the Care & Restoration section of their site, “it takes more than 230 steps to handcraft each pair of Red Wing Shoes; it only takes three easy steps to keep them looking good.”
I bought my first pair of Red Wings just five months ago based on advice from a friend. I care for them as though they will be my one constant, my one foot-comforting friend that I may have for the next ten years. I know where the boots were made, the care that went into the manufacturing process, and I know that if I take care of them like they deserve to be, then they may potentially carry my body around the country all the way until I have a wife and kids. Or maybe even grandkids.
-Nic Olson, ballsofrice.wordpress.com
If you were to take a step out the door at 2401-11th Avenue in Regina, Saskatchewan, turned left to face west, and walked until you reached a rise or fall in elevation greater than a metre, you would likely arrive at the Rocky Mountains. If, instead, you were to walk directly north on Smith Street, the cross-street of 2401-11th Avenue, you would end up walking for three straight days until you reached a heavily forested area with naturally growing trees, as opposed to the wind-breaking hand-planted farm trees in the south. It is in the flat and the barren where real strength is gained. Extreme meteorological conditions can (and will) lift and drop a human being’s spirit daily. When you come from a place where you must walk a minimum of several days to reach the luxuries of natural shelter provided by trees or elevation, you will become innovative and resourceful in many ways. You will because you have no choice. Some born into these conditions take to building structures, some learn an instrument, some read books. Some collect antiques and vintage trinkets to fill the void. Others sit in basements drilling holes through pressed-steel handsaws to make display cases. The latter is Norwood. A softly-lit amalgam of pine, fir, and birch that brings back warm memories of your grandparents’ basement, or the family cottage at the lake when the leaves have fallen off the trees.
When Noel Wendt, proprietor of the staple Canadian skateshop, the Tiki Room, asked me to help him brainstorm names for the new shop he was opening, I was living in Montreal. I hadn’t seen the space and hadn’t been back to Saskatchewan in nearly a year. I didn’t understand his vision. So my list included generic gems such as The Cabin, The Workshop, as well as moronic suggestions such as Grime and Punishment, The Brothel, or Blown Hips (it has recently been given the nickname the Gnarbar, or Gnarburator by the few workers that spend too much time there). For some reason, none of my brilliant suggestions caught wind. Instead, just weeks before the shop opened, someone noticed a rusted iron cap with the diameter of a pasture fence-post inlayed in the concrete at the corner of Smith and 11th. The cap read ‘Norwood’, an old Canadian iron foundry that buried their caps in the sidewalks of cities across the prairies. The name fit the aesthetic. Norwood was born.
The 1000-square-foot storefront is filled with household and industrial items from the days of old, when purchasing something meant a life-long commitment. When objects were built well, with proper materials, and purchased only upon necessity. Norwood carries brands that reflect this mentality. Simplicity, quality craftsmanship, responsibility. Pendleton pillows and blankets sit upon a modified bakery rack against the building’s eastern-most column. Belts, lanyards, and accessories from local leather-maker, Hansen Leather Goods, adorn a vintage hand dolly. Ray Ban sunglasses boast their attractiveness from the previously mentioned glass-case made up of six rusty handsaws. Red Wing Shoes stand proudly under the spotlight on a massive chopping block. Mens coats hang from a coat rack salvaged from a church foyer, and another rack created and designed in-shop, made up of one-inch iron pipes threaded and fitted for the space. Norse Projects hats and sweaters rest comfortably on wooden milk crates and wooden toboggans next to the door. The Levi’s denim decorates the west wall, hanging from a John Deere truss taken from a torn down barn at a sheep farm in Cupar, Saskatchewan. The barn was an acquisition specifically for the creation of the shop—an ad was posted on the internet that Wendt would pay $50 if he could tear down a barn and keep the lumber. The barn was torn down in the middle of February in the unforgiving winters of Saskatchewan. The weathered planks from the prairie structure are the appropriate backdrop to the hand-drafted map of Regina from 1957 that hangs as a centrepiece to the entire shop. The pine floor was milled in Love, Saskatchewan, and the counter top is made of reclaimed fir beams of an old swimming pool, both made and installed with the DIY-values upon which Norwood was founded. The creative balance between product and prop makes for a relaxing visit, no matter the mood you’re in, the time of day, or the type of weather you may see out the north and east windows. An honest, agrarian cabin in the core of a prairie city.
And that’s only half of the space. When the hand-made drawbridge (yes, there is an actual drawbridge) is drawn, one can meander downstairs, into the workshop-dungeon where so much of the work was done for the upstairs shop. A miniature woodworking shop, a small photo studio, a desk made of plywood and paint cans, and soon to be a darkroom for the developing and printing of film photography, the basement is the creative workspace where artistic ideas come to life, where the skeleton of Norwood is pieced together, joint by joint, limb by limb.
In just over one year of existence, Norwood has grown into its own as a fine vendor of classic goods to serve the growing city with increasingly diverse demands. As it gains notoriety and evolves in its design, and as it grows into a community of people committed to quality, Norwood will only become greater through the strength of many, staying true to the motto of the province in which the shop was proudly established.
Small cities may not possess the attractions and allure of larger metropolises. In small cities the pace is slower, the streets are quieter, the people are usually friendlier. Norwood Shop cozies right in with the themes and values of a prairie town, but boasts the ability, know-how, and craftiness to contend with any shop in any major city.
If you were to walk directly south on Smith Street past the windows of Norwood, past the city limits, and through the farmers’ fields, stepping over newborn calves, hurdling barbwire fences, again you would not soon reach a change in elevation that would make your legs ache. If you were to walk straight east on 11th Avenue until you found a shop that better embodied the values of the people whom it serves, you’d likely end up chin deep in the salty Atlantic Ocean.
We’re adjusting our hours for the last week of the year so our staff can enjoy some time with their friends and family! The changes are as follows:
Thursday, Dec 27th, 2012: Noon to 6pm
Friday, Dec 28th, 2012: Noon to 6pm
Saturday, Dec 29th, 2012: Noon to 6pm
Sunday, Dec 30th, 2012: Noon to 5pm
Monday, Dec 31th, 2012: Noon to 6pm
Tuesday, Jan 1, 2013: CLOSED