The area of Duckworth Street surrounding the War Memorial is home to thriving new shops like Broken Books, Fixed, and Phil’s, along with a handful of stalwarts like Fred’s, Pi, and Posie Row, making it one of the most resilient sections of shops in the city.

Now in its twentieth year of operation, Posie Row has been selling exotic gifts, sterling silver jewelry, hats, and accessories since May 1995. They were pioneers in creating the vibrant downtown shopping we have today.

Owner and operator Anita Carroll has been at the heart of the operation since the beginning.

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Before it was Posie Row, the 210 Duckworth Street location was Amos & Andes Imports, a branch of the Canadian imported knitwear chain. When the business came up for sale, Anita saw potential, says Jane Manuel, current manager and buyer at Posie Row. Having worked with Newfoundland weaver Barb Roberts at Bogside Gallery in Halifax, Anita had some managerial and buying experience. “Unfortunately, she was completely and utterly broke,” says Manuel.

After securing funding, Anita worked with the Amos & Andes people for a time and carried on with some of the lines stocked by A&A. However, Anita never intended to continue as a branch of a larger company. “She wanted to create her own thing, her own name,” says Manuel.

“When the business was officially changing hands, the bank required a business name for the place under Anita’s ownership, and she seems to have pulled Posie Row out of her imagination on the spot.”

By the time the store opened, Anita had a small son and was pregnant with her second child. After she purchased the building, the family moved into the apartment above the shop, and most days, Anita worked in the shop with a baby under the counter. “Eventually, Anita took over the second floor and, when I began to work for her, the [back of the shop] was mostly a playroom for her kids, with a little desk area where you could do paperwork while all the neighbourhood kids tromped in and out,” says Manuel.

Posie Row became well-known for Guatemalan knit sweaters and other imported items. “We still have customers, 20 years later, who have, and continue to wear, sweaters bought in Pose Row’s first year of business,” says Manuel. “There were also things like ceramic chimineas, worry dolls, hacky sacks, knitted hats and mitts — a lot of Guatemalan and Andean handicrafts. Many places downtown stocked local merchandise, so Anita set out to carry unusual, interesting items, things not easily found elsewhere.” Posie Row still works from this premise.

In the early years, with two small children, Anita mostly worked the store by herself. “I don’t think she could really afford to hire staff, and I think she generally worked six days a week,” says Manuel. “She would travel to Toronto for trade shows, armed with a tight budget and, a few times, a baby on her back. She had to choose her stock extremely carefully because she had so little money to spend. It had to be spent on things that would sell.”

Rosie Row still carries a number of lines that they have had since opening day (Ark Imports, Parkhurst Hats, World Folk Art Imports, and others), with a growing number of fair trade items, including UK ethical fashion collection Nomads Clothing, of which Posie Row is the only North America carrier.

“Because the shop is now on solid footing, we are able to take a few chances, product-wise, to test a gut feeling about a line,” says Manuel, who has travelled to New York and the UK on buying trips for Posie Row. “If it works, great! If not, everyone can still pay the bills.”

“We love that we are a stopping place for so many people: those in the neighbourhood who drop in a few times a week to pick up incense and see what’s new… or those who visit once a year from Labrador and stock up on hats for church, snow shoveling, and gardening in one go.”

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Photos by Joel Upshall for The Overcast