Soul matters – retail, not as much

Sue Fay, owner of Soul Matters

The strip between Sunnyside and Glen in Old Ottawa South is losing another store, as health and wellness shop Soul Matters closes its retail business to focus on its services, which include massage therapy, nutritional counselling, life coaching and shamanic work.

At the beginning of June, the business will move two doors down Bank Street to share a space with the women’s clinic Anna Belanger & Associates.

Three Little Monkeys, Kaleidoscope Kids, Rowland Leather, Phase 2 and West Coast Video are businesses in that area that have all shuttered or moved in recent years.

When Soul Matters opened three and half years ago, owner Sue Fay envisioned a store centred around health services complemented by a small retail business of relevant healing products. These products included crystals, wish stones, totems, essential oils, and eco-friendly items such as veggie soy candles and tree-free greeting cards. But Fay has found that the retail responsibilities have prevented her from offering as many services as she would like – and they’ve prevented her from doing the work she enjoys most.

Fay is a personal life coach by trade but she finds that she’s spending most of her time behind the counter. “As a personal life coach, you have to walk your talk,” she said.

The colourful crystals, jewellery, and other items at Soul Matters are laid out very carefully, and they frame the cash counter in a symmetrical, aesthetically pleasing way. The words “Life is beautiful” and “Dream” adorn the walls in big, italic letters, and a soothing, hymn-like music plays in the background. It’s a peaceful environment, said neighbourhood resident Olga Matwin, who was passing through. “I came here for the ambiance,” she said.

“It’s laid back. It’s relaxed, it’s simple.”

Fay at the counter of Soul Matters

But Fay seemed relieved to be closing the store. “It frees me,” she said. She’s been at Soul Matters seven days a week, and said that she felt the recession as well as the loss in traffic through the store with the closure of retailers around her. “Retail is very, very challenging,” she said. Fay used the language of personal coaching to explain the move, saying that it’s about the goal she wants to achieve, a goal she has perhaps deviated from. At the same time, she seemed sad to let go of a place she built from the ground up.

With its alternative healing products, the boutique is an eclectic little island in still conventional Old Ottawa South. It sells crystals that are placed on various parts of the body to promote healing, like an amethyst on the right side to cure headaches. It sells wish stones such as Chalcedony, whose label says that it’s a “sacred stone of Native American Indians, promoting stability.” Within ceremonies, it “provides a pathway for receiving thought transmissions.” It also “encourages ‘brotherhood’ of all.” With regard to services, Soul Matters counts Reiki, a Japanese spiritual practice where practitioners place their palms on specific spots on a person’s body to promote healing. And a clairvoyant, or medium, has come by once a week to provide consultations.

Fay said that she was surprised at how many people in the community welcomed her arrival to the neighbourhood, given the alternative nature of some of her products and services. “From the moment I moved in, people walked in this door saying to me ‘Oh my God, we are so happy you’re here. This is amazing.’ And those people for the past three and half years have continued to come,” she said.

Shannon O’Hearn has been a regular customer who comes in regularly for crystals. She said she isn’t sure what she’ll do when the retail store closes, since there are certain products that can’t be found anywhere else in the city.

With Soul Matters’ retreat from retail, Old Ottawa South loses its space for alternative healing products. But Fay gains a slice of freedom.

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