Fascinator on “Sondra”, a notorious hat model at Dragonfly
“My husband Chet orders all the fascinators”, Sandy Pasko, founder of Dragonfly, announces grinning ear-to-ear. I curled over in laughter catching her husband’s affirmative nod. Chet is a builder and looks very much the tool-belt type; yet, he procures quirky headdresses made famous by the royals in England for his wife’s elegant shop. The irony was not lost on me.
It was a beautiful Saturday in August when I visited the six apparel shops in the picturesque town of Brighton. My aim was to define its unique place in East Ontario’s style consciousness. I quickly came to the realization that Brighton is in fact a style centre, rivalling nearby Bloomfield and Downtown Belleville by the sheer number of its shops. This is surprising for a small town that features only two street corners at its centre.
More mystifying, these are not the predictable quirky little country stores which sell homemade jam on the side; the unique sourcing and quality of the products featured is astonishing. These shop owners know their trade and their markets, tourists and locals.
Rieker sandals, The Shoe Store (CLICK ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE)
Take Kate Lewis, who has been running her shop, The Shoe Store, for twenty years. Perhaps it is the most enduring shop in Brighton. She was reluctant to speak of her early years as a foot care specialist for the VON, consequently getting pegged as same. A visit into the store dispels this notion. Shelves billow with beautiful, high quality, stylish footwear for women, from sandals to winter boots, even purses. It doesn’t hurt that the world renown Rieker brand is the shop’s staple, assuring customer loyalty. The hidden value shoppers don’t see on the price tag ($60 to $160) is the secret Kate keeps close, until now: a deep understanding of our anatomy related to feet and posture.
Joseph Ribkoff dresses, The Clan Shoppe
Hop across the street and enter, The Clan Shoppe, owned and operated by Louise Boers, for thirty years. The shop is legendary in the region. Its inventory originates mostly from Canada, featuring brands like Joseph Ribkoff, J.R. and Libra. The price point ranges from $22 to $200. The two buttoned-down women serving customers at the time we visited, Patricia and Debbie, were simply extraordinary; the love of serving people came from a deep place. It speaks volumes about Boers’s leadership.
I muse on the longevity of these shops. Clearly, Brighton provides a solid foundation by its geography just off the 401 and on the way to Prince Edward County. A community with substantive disposable income provides continuity.
Sandy Pasko, Dragonfly
Gina Boyd, G. Boyd Boutique
Walk a few doors eastward and you’ll find Sandy Pasko at Dragonfly. There are so may unique items competing for your attention when you enter the small shop, including bling and more bling; you find yourself wanting and touching everything. The atmosphere gets a boost from smart audio; Peggy Lee belted out, Give Me Fever, a cheerful throwback for the forty-plus visitors. Pasko encapsulates her offering as “affordable ($20 to $100), fashionable clothing and unique accessories”; but, truly it is a fun place to visit.
Pop back across the street and visit Gina Boyd, the acclaimed fashionista, at G. Boyd Boutique founded in 2009. This woman is always arrayed in the most beautiful colors and style, head-to-toe. You wish to purchase what she is wearing; yet, her core product is footwear. The shop is peppered with other temptations like artisan jewelry and handbags. “I am a retired motorhead”, Boyd exclaims, in reference to her previous employment at GM. Boyd’s low-brow comedy is part of her charm; frankly, it’s a sale closer. She adds, “G.Boyd is sass, class and sophistication”.
Connie and Chuck Howell, Red Stone Clothing
Two recent openings, Red Stone Clothing, for men and women, and, Magnolia Cottage, a vintage shop, refresh the Brighton style experience. Red Stone owned by couple, Connie and Chuck Howell, opened a year ago this August. This shop is located behind the main drag, in a new strip mall off Prince Edward Street. Chuck embroiders all day, to order, on products purchased in the store for a small up-charge; this is a unique offering. The store offers all that men need in seasonal casual wear from slacks to polo shirts at the front of the shop; the back is stocked with women’s products that are uniquely sourced. Designer Cheryl Marigold’s exclusive tailored jackets look good on the rack; they are unmistakably beautiful and worth the ticket price of over $100.
Carole Pare, Magnolia Cottage
Carole Pare is well-known in Brighton, having founded many stores, shuffled a few and moved down the road a bit. Now she is back in the heart of town since May 2014 with a vintage store replete with authentic pieces and reproductions from the roaring “flapper” 20s and forward. In the Magnolia Cottage, small furnishings and dresses are pressed together beautifully into what seems art form. Meanwhile, the natural perfume of artisan soap quaffes through the store; the patchouli-lime is the rage and was sold-out when I returned two weeks later. The crocheted gloves–gone. The white cotton “Southern-Belle” sleeveless dress–gone. It doesn’t hurt that the price-point is the lowest of the six shops at an easy $8 to $60. This gentle, elegant woman is a precious treasure to Brighton. The memories the items revive is also good for the heart.
Enjoy the following gallery for a deeper look:
Vintage clothing closet, Magnolia Cottage
Exclusive Leather Jacket, Cheryl Marigold AKA Fashion Cartelle, Red Stone Clothing
MJUS and B. Unique boot, G. Boyd Boutique
Bertolli Handbag, Black faux opening Putorti sweater (made in Canada) , green CMC cardigan, Dragonfly
Rieker sandals, The Shoe Store
Joseph Ribkoff dresses, The Clan Shoppe