By Katherine Ellis
Photography by James Park
“Keeping up with the Kiryakos” is what the Milk Shop in Ottawa could be called, according to Inaas Kiryakos, co-owner of the boutique. “It’s just like the show with me, my mom and my sister,” she says.
Located on Dalhousie Street in the heart of the nation’s capital, Milk was one of the first stores to open in the area more than six-and-half years ago. After seeing the lease sign and inquiring about the price, Inaas called her sister Mais and asked if she wanted to open a boutique together.
“We have always been in the retail and fashion industry,” says Mais, who has worked in places like the Gap and Allegro, while Inaas designed menswear in Montréal.
“When we opened the store, people wouldn’t really come out in the winter, so we would not have a single customer during that season. They wouldn’t want to walk the extra blocks.”
However, it soon changed, with Milk’s growing popularity and the expansion of the area to more boutiques, a hair salon and a coffee shop.
The boutique currently sells clothing and accessories from many lines, including Ya Los Angeles, Miz Dragonfly and Vero Moda. The Kiryakos sisters painstakingly choose each piece from various sources: the web, shows and conventions, catalogues and even personal visits to designers in New York, at least three times a year. The sisters have also recently returned from MAGIC, a large trade show for designers and retailers in Las Vegas.
According to Mais, this process now takes more time since they began refreshing their stock every two weeks rather than five or six times a year, an approach they adopted late last spring. “It’s more work, but a lot better for the store, because you don’t get bored. And we don’t get bored with our outfits either,” says Mais.
“We look for what’s in the trends today, as well as what is upcoming. For us, price point is also a big deal,” she adds.
For example, a big trend this spring and summer is bright colours. Mais is excited to wear a “new pair of bright cobalt blue, wide pants with sailor buttons, and a short, knitted coral top.”
Milk shoppers range from high school students to women in their 50s. Their style choices are diverse too, so the sisters mix various trends for a metropolitan consumer, from everyday to evening wear.
“Some girls will come in and buy an outfit for the weekend, and then come in two weeks later and buy a whole other outfit,” says Mais.
So what is the store’s motto? Trendy, cute and fun – just like the Kiryakos sisters.
“Thank God I have the store, because I live in Milk clothes,” laughs Mais. “I don’t really shop anywhere else, but it definitely saves me a lot of money owning the boutique!”
Milk is currently expanding its staff, and is in the process of hiring four interns, who will work on various aspects of the business: from ordering new and on-trend accessories online to revamping the store’s website.