MENSWEAR & LIFESTYLE STORE
Words: Riel Lynch / Photos: Janine Kropla
When you cross the threshold of the shop, you’ll be greeted by two things: the dregs of motor oil from Chris’ ’65 Ducati, and Norman, the shop pup. His cumbersome little copper puppy body hopped up, looking for at first what seemed like a pat, but then I quickly realized what he truly wanted: the mittens off my thawing hands. The floor to ceiling windows leaked in spots of sun, and obscured us from winter’s chill that Saturday afternoon. The inky brick facade of the shop is crisp, unassuming, and welcoming to passers-by, who can observe Chris, Amanda, and Norman, as freely as one can watch the goldfish at the pet shop, if they so choose. The inside of the store is a hybrid of industrial and organic. The wrought iron piping, with denim, knit, and other wearable goods hanging off them are complimented by the exposed brick and reclaimed wood walls. As Chris was on an errand run, we all positioned ourselves around the glass display counter that houses leather wares and antlers at the front of the store and slowly sipped our coffees, while occasionally cooing at the mass of fur that scooted below.
Once everyone had arrived, we made our way to the “living room” set-up in the corner, where the record player was playing something that sounded like Van Morrison, or someone who sings just as sweet as such. The leather couches allow you to slouch down real nice, and the level Thomas Fougere Tyndall stone coffee table adds to the organic feel of the space as a whole.
Amanda led the way for us, and then sat down, curling up her legs on the couch closest to the window, and soon Chris followed suit.
Chris Saniuk and Amanda Remond just opened up Normandy shop, a men’s lifestyle store that sells fine wares, accessories, home wear, and modern home decor. Chris was born and raised in East St. Paul before it was an overly developed neighborhood. He has family in the Blackhawk Lake area in Ontario, where he spent many summers, falls, winters, and springs with them. He comes from a family of miners, farmers, and other hard-labouring folk. His uncle Cliff builds log homes, and was someone who Chris has always looked up to, and has been inspired by. After high school, Chris moved back and forth from here to craggy British Columbia, in pursuit of an illustrious snowboard career. Amanda grew up on a dairy farm northwest of Ottawa, near the Quebec border, however, in her late childhood the family packed up and moved to Grunthal, Manitoba. She travelled to England in her last year of high school, but returned home to graduate. After high school, she moved to Winnipeg and studied graphic design at Red River College. The couple met in Amanda’s last year of college, and now with the two babies Norman and Normandy, here they are, as happy as clams.
Muddy Water: When and how did the concept for Normandy shop come to light?
Chris: When I lived in Vancouver there was a lot of beautiful stores out there, like Old Faithful Shop, Neighbour Shop, stores that were doing things that Winnipeg had not seen yet. They had, you know, brands that I had never even heard of. The aesthetic of those stores were all heritage driven, with exposed brick, and wood everywhere. We thought: why isn’t there anything like this in Winnipeg? Then this place popped into our lap about four months ago, and yeah, we’ve been working at it ever since.
Amanda: It is just an aesthetically pleasing place for men to go in Winnipeg, not only to shop, but to just to be influenced by the home design and music. Men in Winnipeg don’t realize how much potential they have to look beautiful. Everyone always says the women in Winnipeg are the prettiest in Canada, but there are also a lot of really handsome men here, but they just don’t showcase it very well. There are as many good looking men in Winnipeg, people need to recognize that. All a guy needs is a good pair of pants and shoes and he’s a babe.
C: We want to offer our clients something that will last them a life time, not just a season.
MW: There is really nothing quite like it here.
A: There are proven facts that people are slowly drifting back towards bricks and mortar. People don’t always like waiting for things, they want to see it, and go home with it now. That is another element that we have, the physical element.
MW: How would you two describe Winnipeg in one sentence?
C: A city that has a lot of hope.
MW: I feel like you want to expand on that?
C: Room for change, smaller businesses are finally getting established, like Nils with and Parlour/ Little Sister, or Thom Bargen. The whole design aspect of things here in Winnipeg are finally starting to change. People are a little bit more appreciative of how their business looks, not just what they are selling. I think it is going to play an important role for anyone opening business in the future. There are more and more shops here now that are putting a lot of effort and pride into the atmosphere of the place. It is kind of the bench mark now, doing something of that caliber, and if you don’t you kind of just risk falling by the wayside.
A: I would say that Winnipeg is a happy struggle. In the winter, for example, we make it work-- have a flask in your pocket, go skating. Winter is a struggle but we do it every year. At first it sucks, but then we get used to being at home more, having parties, going skating.
MW: How did you go about designing the concept for the space? Any sources of inspiration in particular (designers, landscapes, magazines, etc.?)
C: My main sources for inspiration were Wharton Esherick, Carl Aubock, Borge Morgensen, those are a few personal favourites of mine, but mid century design as a whole has been very influential. I have a large respect for the old masters. Another huge influence was Ariele Alasko from Brooklyn, she does amazing work with reclaimed wood, she is unbelievably talented you should check out some of her work. I just wanted to build something that reminded me of my mom's family farm out in Blackhawk but still keep it modern and inviting.
MW: What was most important for you (with respect to the space)?
A: Well it is constantly evolving so the size of the space itself allows us to change things around regularly and that's very important to us. Keeping the displays well organized and well curated is very important to us as well, but most important is keeping the sense of warmth in the space, we want people to come in and feel like they are at home.
MW: And are you content with the product of your labours, the work you have put into the space?
C: I'm pretty happy with the way the space turned out considering the amount of money we had to play with, it was a major labor of love, but there is still some work to be done. I'm not sure if the space will ever be "finished", it will always be a work in progress, always progressing and changing into something else as seasons change.
Visit Chris, Amanda, and Norman at 791 Corydon Avenue.