There is nothing that inspires and excites us more than seeing genuine people doing what they love and working amicably with others in their industry. The folks at Regina’s Mortise & Tenon — a home décor, clothing, and giftware boutique on 11th Ave — could not fit this mould more perfectly. When we popped in to visit Dani and Cassie (two of four partners in the company) at their lovely downtown location, their passion hit us the second we opened the door. As we cruised around the shop exploring the latest additions to the shelves, the two shared excitement about their favourite pieces and new discoveries — their gasps and giggles filling the room.
When we finally got around to “talking shop”, the true essence of Mortise & Tenon’s approach to business could not be overlooked. Their commitment to support designers and artisans they believe in, and to work with other shops — like their neighbours Norwood — to ensure no inventory is doubled, is commendable. Even more, they are driven by a desire to provide additional quality options for customers in Regina, rather than push existing shops out.
Get the full details on folks at Mortise & Tenon, their views on inspired living, and their hopes and dreams for their shop below!
BG: Tell us about the individuals that make up Mortise & Tenon!
M&T: We’re a team of two couples and longtime friends, Eric Oleson and Cassie Ozog, and Alex and Dani Hackel.
Eric is a woodworker who has operated Oleson Woodshop for the past five years, crafting custom heirloom furniture for his wonderful clients. He has studied at the William Ng School of Fine Woodworking, and draws inspiration from the Arts & Crafts movement, Mid-Century Modern and Danish design, and the works of Sam Maloof and George Nakashima.
Cassie is an instructor at both the University of Regina and the First Nations University of Canada, and was also one-half of the popular True Knit Art Show craft sale team in the city. When not teaching or scouting out fun pieces for the shop, she writes, plays roller derby for the Pile o’ Bones Derby Club, and tries to befriend every animal she meets.
Alex is a jack of all trades from building motorcycles, going to school to be an electrician, welding, and any kind of fabrication. When Alex isn’t in the workshop (which is rare) he will take any opportunity to get out on one of his bikes. Alex also enjoys “junking” and always finds those hidden gems.
Dani is an elementary school teacher here in Regina and loves working with all her little turkeys! When she isn’t at school she enjoys shopping…shopping…and well, shopping, which works out great for finding new companies for the store.
BG: What separates Mortise & Tenon from other home decor, clothing, and gift shops in Regina and elsewhere?
M&T: Our approach to the companies and artists we bring in to Mortise & Tenon really sets us apart. We try to stock, as much as possible, local and small businesses from here in Regina, across Canada, and the U.S. We try to seek out artists and companies that aren’t carried anywhere else locally, and provide them with a storefront to promote their creations. And we are constantly looking for more! We try to carry a wide variety of products as well — we aim to be a modern day general store for home wares, clothing, gifts, and furniture.
A big part of our business is also our custom furniture and housewares, which we build with pride here in Regina. Mortise & Tenon provides a showroom and consultation space for any dream pieces, whether it be a traditional, harvest dining table, or the perfect little sofa table to fit the weird space in your home that you’ve been searching for the perfect piece for years. Quite honestly, no piece is too big or too small for us! Mortise & Tenon provides design within reach.
BG: You speak a lot about inspired living — what does inspired living mean to you and how does it influence the business decisions you make?
M&T: Inspiration is such a personal thing so we try to live our most inspired lives, and share that inspired feeling with our customers. We bring in stock and create pieces that reflect our passions, and we hope that our customers love them as much as we do. But we also hope that they feel the inspiration we have at Mortise & Tenon and that in some way, it also encourages our customers to live out their inspirations and passions — in whatever form that takes! To us, passion is a very individual thing — different people, places, and crafts will inspire folks in different ways. But there’s something really contagious about being around people who live their dreams.
BG: Mortise & Tenon is one of the newest residents on the re-emerging 11th Ave in downtown Regina. Tell us about why you chose that location and what you think the future holds for this neighbourhood.
M&T: We did scout some other locations and neighbourhoods in the city when we first decided to open Mortise & Tenon, but once we found this space, we knew it was home. Downtown Regina is one of those neighbourhoods that keeps evolving and changing, with new businesses popping up over the last couple of years, and just some all-around exciting stuff happening down here, we knew we really wanted to be a part of that. There are a lot of downtown businesses we respect and frequent ourselves, and so we knew we would be happy being a part of this neighbourhood. We really love seeing all of the unique new businesses pop up, like our neighbours Rouge Nightclub, and seeing how these local businesses are growing a stronger and more eclectic downtown. This new energy, particularly on 11th, will add to the growth of the downtown shopping district, and its unique personality!
BG: What has been the greatest unforeseen challenge you have encountered during the process of opening up your shop?
M&T: Renovations! I think most new business owners revamping their own space will agree that renovating always presents some mind-numbing and back-breaking moments. It was challenging at times to turn an empty space into one that reflects not only the spirit of the business, but four different partners as well. Sometimes an empty space can be as overwhelming as it is inspiring. As anyone who has ever done a renovation knows, there are always little surprises that pop up when you least expect (or plan!) for them, and so the learning curve of developing our space has provided us with a lot of growing opportunities. Luckily, both Eric and Alex are incredibly handy, so they took on the majority of the renovation burden! But looking at the space now, the long nights and heavy lifting (and definitely some blood and sweat — we were too tired for tears) were definitely worth it.
BG: What has been the most pleasant surprise?
M&T: How welcoming our new customers have been! We’ve been met with such a warm welcome, it’s been wonderful. So many customers have come in and loved the space, the unique stock we carry, or been over the moon about a piece of custom furniture we’ve created for them, and it just makes us so happy. Of course you hope that you will develop a strong customer base, but we’ve really been humbled by how many people there are in this city that love supporting local businesses.
BG: What are your hopes and dreams for your shop?
M&T: We have so many, but we’ve only been open a few months, so we’re trying to balance our goals and dreams with taking each day at a time. We want to keep finding unique items to bring into the store that aren’t carried elsewhere in the city, and grow our customer base every time we bring in a new artist or small business. We want to keep building awesome pieces of furniture, and work with clients who want to bring our passion and inspiration into their homes. Every new business wants to grow and develop, but we really want to grow with purpose, and develop our business into one that is constantly improving and changing for the better. We want to always be inspiring our customers — and ourselves!