he pandemic has prevented a lot of things, but it hasn’t stopped time from moving forward. People are still celebrating marriages, birthdays, anniversaries, and welcoming new life into the world.
Handmade cards are one of the most sincere and affordable ways to let someone know you’re thinking of them—and one Dartmouth shop has been making its cards available even while it's closed by COVID.
“When the pandemic hit and we had to shut down, it was just like a bomb had gone off. We didn’t know what we were going to do,” says Sam Holt, co-owner of Kept Shop
on King Street.
“We spent some time just talking it out and I guess I just wanted to answer the question of like, How can we bring Kept to our customers and to Halifax? How can we still make sales but not in a social setting?” he says.
Since 2013, Kept Shop has offered home décor and giftwares that range from elegant mugs and floral tea towels to children’s bibs, blankets and books. Holt, who owns the store with his wife Charlotte Jewer, says they spend a lot of time curating and selecting items that they’d want in their own home.
“It’s a seven-day-a-week job, we’re just constantly always sort of seeing what’s out there,” he says. “It’s got to be great quality. It’s not worth selling stuff that you wouldn’t want to have yourself.”
One part of the store that’s always drawn customers is the greeting card wall. “People love to come in and go to the card wall and take anywhere from two minutes to 20 minutes picking out cards for all the occasions,” Holt tells The Coast.
Holt—who has a background in design—was trying to think of ways to use technology and even artificial intelligence when he realized what he needed wasn't a new invention: It was a simple, old-fashioned vending machine.
“There’s a vending machine that already exists that, would perfectly fit greeting cards. So I researched some of the companies and I got in touch with a guy,” he said.
As it turned out, the vending machine company was having similar problems with sales dropping as public spaces weren’t being used as heavily.
“All the places that he had his vending machines, people weren’t going. Hotels, university campuses. There was a big hole in his business, so he was keen to give it a try and really helpful,” Holt says.
ach card is $7 and the machine accepts coins only. Some are from local artists, including Halifax Paper Hearts
and Kate Mitchell
, while others are from Canadian or international artists.
The first vending machine was placed in Alderney Landing in early May, which coincided perfectly with Mother’s Day. A second machine was installed in Scotia Square last week, and Holt is hoping that with Father’s Day around the corner, the coming weeks will be just as successful.
“Everyone needs a Mother’s Day card, so we sold out of those. So this’ll be the next event,” he says.
Although the machine isn’t perfect—it’s old, sometimes it won’t accept certain coins—Holt says it’s a great opportunity to get the word out about Kept Shop and for people to get greeting cards without having to go into a store.
“We just wanted to maintain and have our brand still out there," he says. "Still let people know that we were there and we were there for them.”