Home goods store KOTi 28 brings Finnish design aesthetic to the Ottawa Valley

KOTi 28 home goods store
Angie MacCrae (left), owner of KOTi 28, and Ella Guckes, owner of Oh-el-la Cafe, have joined forces to bring comfort and design to Arnprior. Photo provided.

A home goods store and cafe in Arnprior is bringing the minimalist aesthetic of Finnish life to the Ottawa Valley. 

When Angie MacCrae, an educator with the Renfrew County District School Board, retired early, she embarked on a journey to bring her lifelong passion for Finnish design to her hometown of Arnprior with KOTi 28, named for the Finnish word for “home.”

“I am not Finnish, but as a young teacher I taught in Finland and I completely fell in love with the design,” she said. “I truly live by that in my own home and I wanted a word that was specific to my design.”

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In September, MacCrae bought the former Gallery Gift Shop on John Street and rebranded it as KOTi 28 by October. The “28” is a nod to the number of years the gallery had been in business when MacCrae bought it.

home goods“I have had a passion for decor and design for many years — you could have called me a hobbyist — and, after retirement, I wanted to use my creativity,” MacCrae said. “The learning curve has been fun because I have a full background in education and leadership skills I can transfer, but not retail or business. The context of everything is so new for me.”

KOTi 28 is a “standalone,” MacCrae explained, for shoppers seeking products and aesthetics outside of farmhouse chic or country styles. Finnish interior design features simple, minimalist styles with nature-based materials and neutral colours for what MacCrae describes as “organic modern.” 

“It’s a little different, a bit urban, and we’re drawing a lot of interest and a lot of people come in,” she said.

MacCrae is embracing the concept of a shopping experience that “feels like home” by opening Oh-el-la Cafe inside the store. 

“I wanted to capture the essence of the experience; people come here and feel the experience of having a coffee, feeling relaxed, browsing, picking up a gift for someone or something for their home,” MacCrae explained. “It’s a sip-and-shop experience.”

Arnprior is the second location for Oh-el-la, which also has a cafe in Calabogie, and owner Ella Guckes, 26, said she has been “welcomed” by the community.

“We’re learning together,” Guckes said of her experience opening the store with MacCrae. “It’s great to have each other for this and good to have each other to lean on.”

KOTi has a website but has yet to open an online store. In addition to possible online shoppers in the future, there’s another market that MacCrae has her eye on: stagers and realtors.

“I want to not just access but collaborate more with stagers, realtors and designers that I can target in the Valley area. There aren’t many (design) choices, to my knowledge,” she explained. “I’d like to be that exclusive business that can offer realtors or stagers the home goods and design for homes.”

With the return of warm weather and the tourist season, MacCrae and Guckes hope to see an increase in traffic. Oh-el-la will introduce a seasonal menu and Guckes said she hopes to get a liquor licence. 

KOTi 28’s social media pages have also expanded the customer base outside of Arnprior.  

“The successful campaign doubled our Instagram followers and a new clientele started visiting the store in-person. Despite the economic lull, we are pleased with the business volume in recent months,” MacCrae said. “This winter season, the economy took a bit of a dip so the first quarter was difficult for retail, but we’re seeing an uptick now … I have a lot of support from customers when they come in and they see new things, so business has been great.

“It happened for a reason, I opened a door to this opportunity and now I’m absolutely having a blast.”

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