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Carbonear entrepreneurs filling Water Street property with businesses

Tammy Wrice (left) and Michelle Penney-Rowe are preparing for their next business venture – Studio Boutique.
Tammy Wrice (left) and Michelle Penney-Rowe are preparing for their next business venture – Studio Boutique. - Chris Lewis

CARBONEAR, N.L. — From solo home operations to a number of businesses under one roof, two Carbonear women have come a long way since joining forces.

Tammy Wrice and Michelle Penney-Rowe are two lifelong friends and business partners who have made quite a name for themselves in Carbonear’s business and art communities since coming together in 2014.

Originally working on their own businesses out of their homes, Wrice and Penney-Rowe reconnected around 2014 with the hopes of bringing their two businesses – Oceanview Art Gallery and Michelle’s Fine Art together out of one location. The two said this was a drastic difference when compared to their at-home operations, but was a welcome change, as the new location provided them with not only a more professional business environment, but also a stronger presence in the community.

“I was back here in the province maybe, I don’t know, 30 days or so, and I got a call from (Penney-Rowe) telling me about an art show down in Freshwater, so I got a bunch of my work – a lot of it I had to take from my mother’s house – so I could be a part of this show. From there, we got to talking, I learned about her business, and even took a class from her,” Wrice said. “Not long after that, the opportunity arose for us to put our two businesses together. Her and I said, well, if we’re both doing our things at our own houses, why not take the leap and create something of a more professional, business-oriented environment for ourselves. So, we did.”

Penney-Rowe also noted the pair had always been very community-minded and were both heavily involved in goings-on throughout Carbonear’s arts community, so the progression from home studios to their new location felt like the next natural step to take.

Although the decision for change in 2014 initially started as a plan to operate two separate businesses in one building, they both agreed that plan did not work out, as the two were always ready and willing to help and support the other, and before long, what started as two slowly developed into one.

“It’s a lot easier to be in one building than to be kind of a travelling roadshow,” Wrice said. “That was hard. It was hard work for many years, but we learned a lot and met a tonne of great people. That being said, to have this brick and mortar type location has definitely upped the presentation of professionalism to the art community that we think Carbonear really needed.”

Since 2014, Wrice and Penney-Rowe have continued to operate out of 195 Water Street. Now, four years later, the duo has occupied almost the entire building after developing a number of business ventures.

Alongside Oceanview Art Gallery and Michelle’s Fine Art, the two ventured into the clothing industry after they together opened up Bay Girls Clothing – a clothing line that takes from Newfoundland’s unique culture. This business, naturally, operated out of the same building as well. A couple years later, their neighbouring coffee shop was planning to close its doors. Not wanting to lose what the coffee shop brought to the building, in early 2018, Wrice and Penney-Rowe took it upon themselves to take over this business as well. They say they could not be any happier with the outcome.

“We didn’t really plan on taking on another business – the timing was a little off, but the opportunity was there,” Wrice explained. “We didn’t want to see the shop go, and sometimes you have to just go with what’s in front of you.”

Now, the two are preparing for their next business venture – Studio Boutique, a gift shop and boutique they’ve called ‘Made Right Here’ that showcases the craftsmanship and local artists. The support of residents is something both Wrice and Penney-Rowe take pride in, and is a theme they continue to carry through all of their businesses.

“We’re about locals, and supporting locals,” Penney-Rowe said. “Even in our coffee shop, we support local coffee roasters, bakers, so everything we do and put out, we try to support local in any facet that we can. With Studio Boutique in mind, we took that whole concept of ‘made right here,’ and put it under one roof.”

With a grand opening having taken place on Saturday, May 5, Wrice and Penney-Rowe hope anyone who walks in to visit their new undertaking can appreciate the hard work of Newfoundland’s artists and generally creative minds, of which will make up approximately 90 per cent of the boutique’s inventory.

With two significant careers under their belts thus far, the pride the two take in their work is evident with every step one takes through the coffee shop, gallery, or boutique. Although they have been working under one roof for less than a decade, a lifetime’s worth of dedication to the art community in Newfoundland is what helps their businesses stand out and grow.

“Business isn’t easy, there’s no doubt about that,” said Wrice. “But I think the key to maintaining this one is that we always support and understand each other.”

“I wake up in the morning and I think to myself – ‘OK, how can I make not only my day easier, but Tammy’s as well?’” Penney-Rowe added. “It’s that kind of mindset that we share that’s got us to this point, and that will help us keep going in the years to come.”

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