The Lower Mainland food truck scene is sizzling with a smorgasbord of roving restaurants serving up quick and tasty meals at the curbside.
The popularity of these travelling eateries got entrepreneurs Karolina Jasinski and Kora Pridy thinking: could fashion trucks enjoy the same success?
The Port Coquitlam friends run an online clothing and home décor store called Ardillas United and this summer, they're pioneering a new way to shop. In July, Ardillas United rolled out a mobile boutique that has been parking at fairs and festivals across Metro Vancouver, inviting shoppers inside to browse and buy. Jasinski and Pridy had heard of mobile clothing shops in the U.S., but they hadn't seen any local examples.
"I realized that no one here was doing it," Pridy says.
In May, the pair purchased a 26-foot-long former Doritos truck for $3,500. It had no engine and needed some serious elbow grease, but five weeks later, and with plenty of help from their husbands and friends, they had themselves a miniature store on wheels that they affectionately named "Beastie."
"We wanted it to be really warm and cozy, but also kind of bright and as open as possible," Pridy says.
Inside the cargo area is a 130-square-foot retail space, complete with vinyl wood floors, ambient lighting, a curtained fitting room and the capacity to display more than 300 items, including jewelry, scarves, clothing and home décor. The truck also has a point-of-sale system so customers can pay with plastic.
"Everything is really compact, but we manage to fit pretty much all of our stock into that little space," Pridy says.
The Ardillas United truck shop made its first public appearance at the Khatsahlano Street Party on July 11 and has since been to the Maple Ridge Caribbean Festival and the 12th Street Music Festival in New Westminster. It makes its North Shore debut on Saturday, Aug. 22 at Car Free Day in Lower Lonsdale. The following Saturday, Aug. 29 it will ride the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island for Bowfest.
The four-wheeled retail store allows Jasinski and Pridy to show off their merchandise without the high overheads associated with a bricks-and-mortar operation. Although online shopping has taken off in recent years, it still can't compare to the in-store shopping experience, Pridy says.
"We realized that when people touch and feel our merchandise, it sells."
Jasinski and Pridy met in high school and have been friends for 20 years. Both originally from Poland, they also happen to be sistersin-law (Jasinski is married to Pridy's brother) and neighbours (they live in the same duplex). The fashionloving friends carefully curate all their merchandise and have brought home handmade goods from their travels in Mexico, Bali and elsewhere. They also source products from Canadian manufacturers, such as Vancouver's Woodlot candlemakers.
"Karolina and I have very similar taste, so we essentially buy what we would want to buy. We want to sell what we're into," Pridy says. Prices range from $10 for a simple bracelet to upwards of $200 for a piece of furniture.
After the summer festival season dies down, the Ardillas United team plans to offer their truck for private shopping parties.
Pridy says she's excited to be on the forefront of the mobile shopping movement, but there are some hurdles at this early stage. For example, Ardillas United doesn't qualify as a street vendor under some municipalities' regulations. But Pridy is hopeful other fashion retailers will soon subscribe to the truck store business model.
"If there's enough of us, we could make some changes for sure," she says, envisioning a fashion truck festival where shoppers could browse a mini mall of mobile merchants. "How fun would that be?"
Ardillas United will be parked at Car Free Day in North Vancouver on Aug. 22 and at Bowfest on Bowen Island Aug. 29. Visit ardillasunited.com for more information.