Our first print issue hit the stands this week, and in it, our very first Shop Portrait was with Model Citizens’ owner, Chelsey Patterson. We had such a great back and forth we couldn’t fit it all into the article. So here’s an outtake interview with Chelsey. For those of you unfamiliar with Model Citizens, Model Citizens is home to the most unique selection of clothes in town. Piece by piece, Owner Chelsey Patterson brings first-rate fashion to St. John’s.
How did you settle on opening a clothing shop?
It was not something I had on my career radar that is for sure. I moved to St. John’s in 2007 with my then boyfriend, now husband Sam in the dead of winter (January 2nd to be exact). My education is an undergraduate degree in Cultural Management, a multidisciplinary BA program that focused mostly in traditional Business, non-profit cultural enterprise, and all of the artistic disciplines. I was given a great opportunity to work with some stellar people at Resource Centre for the Arts, and was there for some time and met the most inspiring, hardworking people in the arts community in St. John’s. It was there that I stumbled on some programs with the now-defunct YMCA Enterprise Centre when working on some employment programs, so I decided that I wanted to write a business plan. I had this crazy idea of a carefully curated resale boutique like those I had seen in Montreal and Vancouver, and I wanted to see what could come of it.
I can’t actually pinpoint the “aha!” moment when I decided to pursue the idea of Model Citizens and I always say I was young and naïve enough to go ahead with it (I was twenty-three when I opened the doors). I do recall that moment that I signed the very scary lease for three years for a location on Duckworth St that had been empty for the previous foyr years. That was terrifying, particularly because our loans hadn’t been approved yet.
It took me one full year to write the business plan for Model Citizens and craft what Model Citizens would be. It was a long, hard process but without it, I doubt I would be in business. My advisor, the long-suffering Scott Andrews of the YMCA, was a patient man.
Do you find you have a lot of regular, devoted clients you can rely on?
We have a fantastically devoted client base. Most people who shop at the store do so frequently, because of the frequent turnover of items. The store is a very social place, so it is pretty common to have several people at a time just hanging out, coming by to say hi. We have a great relationship with the St. John’s art, music, film and theatre communities. We like to support them where we can, and they are hugely supportive of us. We have gotten great shoutouts from many “local celebs” in local and national publications, and tend to see most of the participants in concerts, festivals and other cultural activities come through the store when things are on the go.
Other than your own store, what’s another shop downtown you often spend your money in?
Home on Water is a shop that I absolutely love to be in and shop in. Their attention to detail, product mix, merchandising and customer service is some to aspire to. When I need a touch of inspiration, I always pop in and just take in how the masters do it.
Where do you like to go for a meal in St. John’s?
The Jeremys at Raymond’s rock my world, I absolutely love going there. We also really enjoy Basho. For everyday food, the Afghan Restaurant has such amazing, delish food. Lunch meetings are Get Stuffed all the way! (Clearly, I really like eating.) Getting outside town, my sister-in-law runs an incredible restaurant called Bonavista Social Club. It’s good to know people when you get around the bay, and there is no better food or ambience to be found.
If not the owner of Model Citizens, what else would you like to be?
I am currently teaching a college Business Administration program and I absolutely love it. Every day I am inspired by my students and their drive and determination.
Other than clothes, do you have a treasured possession, or another passion?
Music. In another life, I was a singer. I studied voice in university and used to sing with many groups and occasionally I will jump on stage for a tune or two with a few groups in town or get up at Folk Night. These days my singing is reserved for the shower, the occasional campfire, and the RPM Challenge album that I start every year and never finish.
Photo credit: Joel Upshall