Finally, a clothing store for those who could never appreciate the popular rom-com Confessions of a Shopaholic.
The Zesty Lemon Clothing Co. opened its doors on Saturday, Oct. 22 — adding a dash of fashion to New West’s Sapperton neighbourhood.
Though Katrina Tsangarakis, the founder of the store, is the last person you would see waiting outside a fitting room in the mall ("I don't go to malls"), she found her calling in launching a small boutique in Sapperton.
Ever since she and her family moved to the area five years ago, as many as five “cute little” boutique shops have closed down around East Columbia Street, she said.
“There’s nothing here; just pharmacies and medical buildings,” she noted of her neighbourhood.
It made sense for Tsangarakis to start one.
“People are very excited to have the store here [in Sapperton], not just because it’s a retail store, but also because it’s size-inclusive and has something for everyone.”
The store’s opening has been a long time coming.
It all started with leggings
Tsangarakis started off by selling leggings at pop-ups in markets and festivals across New West at the end of 2017.
When COVID hit, she adapted to an online model, delivering orders to people's homes. This wasn’t as satisfying; she missed interacting with customers.
So, she expanded the business to a mobile boutique — a truck morphed into a store that her husband helped drive around.
But running a store out of a truck was challenging — parking was a nightmare, she didn’t know how to drive, and more importantly, she was outgrowing her business pretty fast.
“I had things in my car, in my truck, in like three storage units. So I was like, 'I can't do this.'”
Which is why she decided to start a brick and mortar store.
As with any new venture, Tsangarakis did get the jitters starting out. But now, she knows it's what she was meant to do, thanks to a fruit — the lemon.
Ever since Tsangarakis decided on the name The Zesty Lemon Clothing Co., she has been seeing lemons in the most random places, she said. “I was seeing people wearing things with lemons on them everywhere.”
At the library, she saw a book Cooking with lemons; at the beach, she saw a sailboat with ‘Zest’, written in big bold letters, pass by; and at home, she chanced upon an Expedia Group ad that had people wearing lemon costumes and people on a lemon surfboard.
“It was so bizarre!”
But Tsangarakis took it as a sign that she was on the right path.
The making of an all-size inclusive clothing store
For her store, Tsangarakis only buys from brands that sell clothing in a range of sizes from small to 3X; though her collection also includes clothes that are extra small, upwards to 5X.
A lot of companies, she noted, only have plus sizes listed on their website, and not in the store.
“That's not fair because people want to try things on and see how things fit. Our bodies are all different shapes and sizes, right?” she said.
“When I was doing markets, the feedback I was receiving warmed my heart. For example, I had two people, probably friends, maybe a couple, come to me, and say, ‘We’ve never been able to go to a store together, and shop,” she said. “They were different sizes,” she added.
“When you go shopping with friends, it's supposed to be like a fun thing. But what the person [the customer] said almost made me want to cry, as I have struggled with the same.”
Tsangarakis recalled, “After I had my kids, my body changed. I could never find things that fit my body. I hated shopping, and I wouldn't even go shopping with my friends.”
Because of a lack of options to buy clothing from, Tsangarakis wore her maternity wear — the nursing bra — for four years after she stopped nursing.
“I honestly would just wear clothes that I've had for years or that got passed down to me — because I hated shopping.”
She understands what it’s like to not find your size — “That's why I'm doing this; to make everybody feel included.”
Tsangarakis has no background in fashion; she has a degree in arts with a major in music and a minor in German. She doesn’t follow trends, but simply orders the clothes that she likes — with the criteria that they should be available in different sizes, and be comfortable.
And the fact that it seems to work for her customers is a big win. Because ultimately, she said, "I want to create a space where people can come and feel good about themselves."
“I want to create a space where people who don’t like shopping would like to go.”
The Zesty Lemon Clothing Co. is located at 430 East Columbia St. To honour the new store, the neighbouring YUM Gourmet Donuts has introduced the 'Zesty Lemon' doughnut that customers can indulge in, probably after finding their right fit at the store.