Meow! Boutique in uptown Waterloo closes its doors for good

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Photo by Madeline McInnis

Meow! Boutique, the beloved uptown Waterloo vintage fashion retailer located at the corner of King and Bridgeport, recently announced that they will be closing at the end of October.

In an Instagram post published to their page on Oct. 2, the store addressed their customer base — fondly referred to as their “Cat Club” — to express their disappointment with the City of Waterloo and the toll the construction had taken on their small business, ultimately resulting in their decision to close their doors.

Meow! Boutique —  with its strutting pink logo sign and old storefront location that was formerly a doctor’s house — was established in 2011 by two antique sellers.

In 2015, it was taken over by Wendy Bones and Melissa Thurston, both Honours Fine Arts graduates who shared a mutual love for vintage pieces, with a keen eye for fashion.

Bones noted the lack of importance placed on small businesses in uptown during the ongoing construction, specifically the lack of assistance they received when they needed it most.

“Seeing the road being closed and how the region didn’t seem to really listen to small businesses voicing their concerns and seeing how their priorities were obviously elsewhere, like putting money into LED trees and things that light up at night to promote the nightlife and restaurants, but nothing for retail,” Bones said. 

To them, the focus of the region has been shifted onto the city’s nightlife and other projects, leaving little room for their store to be successful.

“So we came to realize that we just don’t fit the vision, that the vision doesn’t include small retail business,” she said. 

In terms of the main problem with the construction effort, they both agreed it came down to the organization and the implementation of it.

“I feel like they went with a cheaper company rather than one that would have possibly kept one lane open. I know there were different people doing bids and they decided to go with this Clearway Construction,” Thurston said.

“I found that probably the worst of it was last summer, when they had it closed from Bridgeport to Willis or Erb — and it was an absolute disaster.”

The lack of access that was available to the store because of the construction inevitably changed how people were shopping and where they were doing it.

“[Even] if you were right in there where some of the businesses [were], you could barely access [them] — but it still changed people coming uptown,” she said.

Meow! Boutique is planned to officially close on Oct. 31, with a large portion of their remaining stock already cleaned out.

The vintage clothing shop isn’t the only establishment in uptown whose business has suffered from the construction however.

“We actually wrote a list, and this is just retail: Heelboy, Eating Well Organically, Gospel Lighthouse, Sugar Mountain, Reitmans, Borrowed Goods, Write Impressions, The Embellish Room, RW Sports, Hatashita Diamonds, Kentucky Variety, Fitness Swim Sanction … the list goes on and on,” Bones said.

In regards to what they took away from their time owning the store, they both share fond memories from their experience — like people stopping by to choose their wedding attire.

“We had a girl that did that — she came in, she picked out a cute little white dress and she went to city hall and got married,” Thurston said.  

Ultimately, the biggest reward has been pleasing their dedicated customer base.

“Making people happy: it’s so awesome when you find a cool, one of a kind vintage piece you can’t find anywhere else,” Bones said.

With their leftover inventory on sale and the date for their closure fast approaching, Bones and Thurston encourage people to share their love of the store with them.

“How to cheer us up: Get in here and enjoy. Show up in your favourite Meow! outfit. Post selfies and tag us, letting us know that our store meant something to you.”

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