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Raggs to Riches: The furniture connects the past to the present

March, 2020

In a society dominated by materialism, it can be easy to lose sight of the beauty in the old when everybody is chasing the new. Well, Rita Brisebois is one person who has yet to be blinded by the glistening white light of modern home décor, and through her business, Raggs to Riches, has dedicated her life to proving that age only adds character.

Located along McLeod Avenue, Raggs to Riches is a boutique that specializes in “re-loved” furniture as Brisebois likes to say. What this means is that she will take a piece of furniture like an old table, dresser, or cabinet, and then sand it down, repaint it, and often add artwork to it. “Raggs to Riches is basically about connecting the past to the present,” Brisebois says.

The boutique is also known for products such as Fusion Mineral Paint–an all-in-one furniture and décor paint–and Iron Orchid Designs (IOD) transfers–large stencils which can be applied to any surface. The inventory also includes April Cornell bedding and linens, a selection of women’s fashion items, as well as a number of other paint, craft, and DIY supplies. “It’s quite an eclectic experience when you come in.”

When Raggs to Riches first opened its doors in 2011, Brisebois had long since been involved in the boutique business. As a lifelong crafter, she decided to start a small business in the 1980s selling her now well known “re-loved” furniture pieces out of her home. “I’ve always loved to take something that’s old and turn it into something that is beautiful, so that’s basically how my business got established,” explains Brisebois.

Over the years, as her business grew in popularity, so did the number of projects she found herself working on, and eventually her house became too small to function as both a business and a home. It was then that she decided to open up a brick and mortar store, rebranding as Raggs to Riches.

At Raggs to Riches, Brisebois makes a big effort to support local and Canadian businesses. Nearly all of the décor pieces in the boutique are bought locally from either stores or individuals in the Edmonton area looking to offload old furniture. As for the other products sold at the boutique, many are purchased from Canadian suppliers including Barefoot Venus, an all-natural bath line which started in Edmonton. “We support Canadian suppliers as much as we can, but of course we do carry stuff from China, too,” chuckles Brisebois.

While there are some pieces available for purchase in the boutique that come untouched, most of them are indeed hand-crafted or re-designed by Brisebois and a fellow staff member. When redesigning a piece, each is done a little bit differently, but the process usually consists of three main steps: cleaning, sanding, and painting with the Fusion Mineral Paint. If a piece is in very good shape when it is delivered to the boutique, Brisebois says she will sometimes keep its top surface original. “We kind of look at the pieces and ponder what we should do with them, and then we come up with all kinds of different ideas.”

On top of its products, Raggs to Riches also offers a multitude of workshops that customers can take part in. These two-hour workshops typically take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday nights, providing participants with the opportunity to let their creativity run wild. Individuals can sign up online through the boutique’s website for workshops with such themes as IOD transfers, mixed media or wooden sign paint nights. All of the materials needed are provided by the boutique, unless one chooses to bring a specific piece of furniture to work on. Patrons are either able to finish their projects in-store or take them home to complete.

In less than a decade, Raggs to Riches has crafted a name for itself as a community focused boutique, not only in Spruce Grove, but throughout the entire Edmonton area. Brisebois attributes this to the shop’s unique atmosphere and phenomenal customer service. “We really strive on making the customer feel at home and appreciated,” says Brisebois. She explains that because Raggs to Riches is only a small boutique, it rarely experiences large floods of customers, making for a shopping experience that is usually calm, relaxing, and that allows for ample amounts of one on one time with staff members. “We have a lot of people that come in and love to just look around.”

As trends in home décor and fashion inevitably change with time, Brisebois is always updating the selection of products and workshops she offers at the boutique. In recent years, for example, Fusion Mineral Paint has become one of the store’s top selling items because of a growing interest in “do-it-yourself” projects. “I’ve always had a collection of antiques, furniture, and refurbished items, but the painting has gotten a lot larger because people are so into DIY,” notes Brisebois.

Brisebois says she wants to expand on its selection of workshops, as well as continue developing its relationship with the community through the implementation of potential seasonal events like a Christmas shopping party and a summer sidewalk sale. t7x

Raggs to Riches at a glance:

Location: 123 McLeod Ave, Spruce Grove

Specialty: Re-loved furniture, Fusion Mineral Paint, and women’s fashion

Fun fact: The boutique considers residents fleeing Edmonton on weekends to be its biggest customer base.