Business owner Connie Boyd isn't daunted by the distinction of being Cobalt's only retailer. The Silver Moccasin opened on the town's main street – Silver Street – in 2007 and she hasn't looked back since.
Her array of native inspired artwork, jewelry and hand-made moccasins and mukluks have attracted local and regional customers to the store and worldwide customers through her online business.
“Lots of people think I am crazy but I look forward to coming here,” she said.
When she has a sale, people assume it is because she is closing.
“At least a few people ask whenever there is a sale sign if I am shutting down for good,” she said. “But I am still here.”
Boyd is Aboriginal and has always had an interest in native arts and crafts and painting. She worked for the Metis Council in Haileybury and was instrumental in opening up a native gift shop as a means for raising funds for the council. The office and shop eventually had to close and she decided to open up a similar store in Cobalt where she and her husband live.
“I had established relationships with the suppliers and the native community in the region and there wasn't a similar store anywhere in the area,” she said.
When the store opened, she also established her website but it took a few years to get noticed.
“I had to figure out Google ads and it was a steep learning curve. But once I did, and capitalized on it, it made a huge difference in online sales,” she said. “I have customers all over the world.”
The moccasins are made by herself, a native artisan in northwestern Quebec and from Aboriginal-owned companies in Canada.
“A few of the novelties I sell are not Canadian made but the rest are and authentically native. People are fussy and expect items like moccasins and mukluks to be made in Canada,” Boyd said.
The store attracts regular clientele from the immediate area and those from Timmins, Kirkland Lake, North Bay and the native community in northwestern Quebec.
“My biggest sellers are moccasins and mukluks,” she said.
Her Metis products, like sashes, are also popular online purchases which she sells across Canada and the U.S. and often in large quantities at a time.
As for the location in Cobalt, Boyd said the overhead is lower than it would be elsewhere and she can walk to work. The post office is a few buildings away so shipping orders is hassle free.
“I just pile everything on a cart and wheel it down,” she said. “It doesn't get easier than that.”
Her store is open Monday to Friday and she is the only one working. But she envisions starting a cultural program where visits can be made to schools and groups, and drum making and other native crafts can be taught.
“I do get requests to go to schools and I have done it but I really don't have the time,” Boyd said.
She is hoping her sister can join her at the store and possibly begin the cultural aspect she wants to initiate.
“I need someone familiar with my products and our heritage if I were to go ahead with that,” she said.
And despite being the sole employee, Boyd does take time off for holidays.
“I take the week off between Christmas and New Year's and I am planning to take some time in the summer. But I like what I am doing and it doesn't feel like work to me.”