Rhiannon Russell: For someone who’s never been to your store before, how would you describe what Behind the Barn is and what it offers?
Niki Greenough: It’s rustic country décor that you just can’t find (in Whitehorse). Before, I was tired of shopping Outside. This is what my house is like, so any time I ever wanted to buy something, I had to wait until I went south once or twice a year. I would make sure that I flew with an empty suitcase. Lots of people aren’t online shoppers, myself included. I like to see things in person, pick them up, have the whole experience. It’s a different kind of shopping. I’ve wanted to open a store like this for forever. I always knew that this would be what I would do after my kids were done school. My son graduated the year before last and my daughter graduated last year, and I knew it was time. I opened October 1, 2016.
RR: When was the first time you thought about opening a store like this?
NG: When the kids were little. It’s been well over 10 years of knowing that this would eventually happen – or wanting it to happen, at least. I don’t know that I would have even committed last year, except my husband was like, “I’ve had enough of listening to you talk about it. Our daughter is just about done school. You need to do this.”
RR: How have people responded to the type of décor and furnishings you sell?
NG: Really good. It’s funny because there are still people who don’t know that I’m here. But then there are people who know I’m here and know what I sell and are just avoiding it because they say they’ll want everything. [laughs]
I had a really good first year. Going into it, you just don’t know what to expect. I know that I love this stuff. But you’re kind of scared — you’re thinking, “I don’t know if everybody else is going to love the same thing I do.” But it’s been really good.
RR: You also do crafting workshops, right?
NG: Yes. They’re really popular. I draw the patterns, and Challenge [Disability Resource Group] cuts all my pieces out of wood. When people come for the workshops, I’ll give them a stencil and show them how to paint so that the wood looks rustic. And they take it home that day.
Last year, we offered just one workshop a week and everyone was booked completely. So this year I started doing two scheduled classes a week and a kids’ class on the weekends.
I also offer private classes. I’ve had a couple of businesses do it as a team-building exercise. I’m glad I chose to do both the crafts and the store, because it fills my need for something pretty and also my need to be able to make it.
RR: What did you do before this?
NG: Admin. My husband owns Fountain Tire so I did paperwork there, which I still do.
RR: Was it hard to find this space? (Behind the Barn is located beside the Kopper King on the Alaska Highway.)
NG: No. I knew I didn’t want to be on Main Street. Having furniture, I wanted it to be easy for people — you don’t have to circle the block 50 times to find a parking spot. I had a look at this place and it looked way different than it does now. It was all black, black ceiling, black walls. And yet I could totally see how it would work. Three five-gallon cans of white paint and about six loads of garbage to the dump later, this is what it looks like.
RR: It smells really good in here.
NG: That’s another thing — the whole feel. I wanted the outside to be welcoming, but the minute you walk in, I wanted you to be hit with the twinkling lights, the smell, the cozy feeling. I want you to come and stay, not even just shop. I want you to come in and feel relaxed. So we have coffee and lattés. Occasionally, I have cakes baked by my son. We sell those by the slice.
RR: Do you source products mostly from Canada?
NG: I go to gift shows, but I do try to get everything from Canadian vendors. Most of it comes from Ontario, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary. Most of my big furniture, like the big hutch behind you, and lots of my signs are made by four women in Alberta. There are only a couple of things in the store that come from the United States. If I love it, I’ll buy it.
RR: Has there been anything that’s come as a surprise or been a challenge during your first year of business?
NG: I think I’ve been most surprised by how busy the craft classes are — how much people really want something to do that’s different, besides going to a show or going out for dinner or to the bar.
People want to be creative, but they don’t necessarily want to have to have all the stuff it takes to do a craft. They can come here, pay the one price, and then take their piece home with them.
I’ve had so many people come and say, “There’s no way I can make that.” I guarantee you, when you leave here, it will look just like that, if not better. Sometime it’s a little tricky to convince people that they just need to come try it. That’s what I tell them: so long as you can follow instructions, you’ll be good.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.