We spoke to owner Marie Letard to hear about being a third generation female shopkeeper, making a surprise bestselling product and doing things her own way…
Hi Marie, when and why did you decide to open Bouche Bée?
Back in 2018, I decided to take a break in what I call ‘my career as an employee’. I felt that looking for a job was very toxic for me and I didn’t want to jump in a new one after having some experiences that weren’t good for me. I wanted to create a healthier work space, and give myself a chance to become an entrepreneur, even if it was scary. The second I understood that I have the power to do things my way, I knew I’d made the right decision.
What had you done before? Did any of these skills help?
I have lived in Canada since 2010 but I was born and raised in the Loire Valley, France. I grew up close to my mother’s parents who were entrepreneurs. My grandmother had a little hardware store. My mum took over the store and it evolved into a decoration shop, so my life, from being a little girl, was completely influenced by this.
I went on to study sales, management and recruitment. In Canada, I worked for a couple of years in an institution, helping teenagers to find an internship. It was comfortable but not creative enough for me. I decided to open a store, as I knew I had everything it takes to do it.
How did you decide on the name?
By looking in a dictionary! I knew I wanted something catchy, starting with a ‘B’ because I think this letter is fun, it jumps in the pronunciation! Bouche Bée is a French expression which describes a state of good astonishment: like when you open a great gift!
How would you describe the interior style of the store?
It’s a colourful vibe but simple in design. Light wood and white walls help to showcase the products, so the collections’ colour palettes are used to set the tone. I like to say that it is a jovial and calming place that is very accessible. I want everyone to feel comfortable coming in, touching, taking their time.
What is the neighbourhood like?
Hochelaga is a special neighbourhood. Many people will say that Hochelaga had a dark past and it’s true. When I moved to the Montreal’s east district, it was because it was cheaper but still well served. After that I realised how many independent stores were here and how great this was! Low rents means more opportunity to start a business and that’s what a lot of young entrepreneurs have done.
What does a ‘normal’ day look like?
I like to come early in the morning, working when the store is closed, quiet and empty. Usually it starts with emails, calls and planning. When the store opens, the energy is so different! My team is here, customers are visiting, deliveries arrive. I like to make orders during the time my staff are around me, that way I can have their opinions. Sometimes I miss the times I was very present on the sales floor with customers, but a big part of my job is to make sure that they love what they find here, so I have to focus on that most of the time.
How do you source your wares?
In multiple ways! It’s a very long process sometimes. I don’t want to jump on a new trend that I’m not sure I like. I want to buy/sell what I really believe in; with a sustainable and useful vision.
Do you create anything in-house?
We do! And that wasn’t planned at all! For the opening, I made little candles as a surprise. Quickly I was asked for larger formats and I decided to make them an important part of our inventory. It’s the only brand of candles that we sell, because I can make sure that the quality is 100% irreproachable.
We heard it’s now one of your bestselling products! Why do you think that is?
Yes it is. The quality is amazing, the price is really fair. We change the fragrances two times in the year, we also have a Christmas collection. It’s always changing and customers love that.
What items are your personal can’t-live-without?
Our candles, obviously, because I had a hard time to find candles that have a lasting fragrance when burned. As well as skincare products from Deux cosmétiques that I have the honour to sell in the store, the quality and prices are amazing!
What do you enjoy most about running Bouche Bée?
I didn’t have the big success story in mind when I started it. I just wanted to find a job that I feel accomplished about. The fact that I’m able to create my own source of revenue is unbelievable!
What has been your career highlight (so far)?
In only three years of business, I have already had the chance to enjoy a couple of highlights that I’m very grateful for. But when customers say that we are their favourite store, that Bouche Bée is unmissable and that they love what I’ve built and how I run my company, I know I made the right move.
Do you have any advice for those thinking of starting their own store?
Find the balance between thinking with your heart and your mind. I always question myself: ‘do I want that for me? Will it really be something many people want?’, and also, remember: just because only a few people decide to do something, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it too!
Find Bouche Bée at 3772 rue Ontario Est, Montreal, Québec and on Instagram.
Photography: Thibault Carron