Wife of former Sens player Radek Bonk teams up with local designer to open luxury furniture store in Stittsville

Longtime friends Jill Bonk, Jennifer Miller embrace 50th birthdays as opportunity to start new career chapter

Jennifer McGahan, Jill Bonk
From left, Jennifer Miller and Jill Bonk are the co-owners of the new Showroom Furniture + Lighting store opening in Stittsville on April 9. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Turning 50 next month was a big enough milestone to motivate Jill Bonk and Jennifer Miller to double-down on a goal they’d set for themselves long ago: to launch a brand new home furnishing and lighting showroom in Ottawa.

Drawing on their respective experiences as a home staging expert and interior designer, the women are now ready to open their Stittsville-based business, Showroom Furniture + Lighting, to the public on April 9.

“I had always wanted to own a store,” explained Bonk, wife of former Ottawa Senators centre Radek Bonk, during an interview alongside Miller. “Turning 50 has been a big thing for both of us, and we just wanted to do something different. I just felt if I didn’t do it now, I might not ever do it.”

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The nearly 2,000-square-foot shop is located on the ground floor of a recently constructed boutique apartment building owned by Huntington Properties. Natural light floods into the space through the large windows overlooking busy Stittsville Main Street. 

Across the street is public parking, as well as the female-owned Pretty Pots Flower Shop, where Bonk and Miller bought all the plants for their store. On their white walls hang paintings by Ottawa-based artist Lee Anne LaForge.

Excitement, stress, anticipation and pride are among the emotions Bonk and Miller have been feeling this past week as they prepare to host their invite-only grand opening party Friday night. Sincere apologies to the red wine and cola drinkers — there will be a ban on such drinks in order to protect the fabrics and furniture from potential spillage. 

“We’ll be serving vodka and sodas, and white wine,” Miller added, with a smile.

Miller, who’s commonly known by her former surname McGahan, previously ran Jennifer McGahan Interiors for 15 years. The mother of two boys grew the small business to more than $1 million in annual revenues. By 2018, she was named an Ottawa Businesswoman of the Year finalist. 

Bonk has been staging homes to sell for the past six or seven years. Her passion for pulling a room together dates back to her childhood, when she used to rearrange her bedroom furniture “a million different ways.”

Bonk ran her part-time business while also raising four children with Radek. He played 10 seasons with the Sens during the late ‘90s and early 2000s. He also played with the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators, as well as overseas in places such as the Czech Republic, where he’s originally from. 

“My husband’s had a career, he’s had his time in the limelight,” explained Bonk, who was kept busy raising their brood when her family was at its youngest, while also moving from city to city. “I just felt like it was time for me to really do something that was outside the house.”

The three-year presence of COVID-19 restrictions delayed the women’s plans to start their business in 2020 due to the uncertainties involving the pandemic and online shopping trends. 

“For a while, we weren’t even really sure where retail was headed,” Miller acknowledged. “Everyone was saying it was going the way of the dinosaur, that people were only going to shop online.”

But when it comes to buying furniture built to last, customers are less inclined to invest in quality couches or dining room sets based solely on online appearance, said Miller. “You want to see it, you want to touch it, you want to sit in it.” 

The idea for Showroom began years ago, when Bonk and Miller noticed a void in the local home furnishing market. Miller was often having to travel with clients to Toronto or Montreal to find the bigger investment pieces that they wanted for their homes.

Showroom is about selling timeless furnishings and lighting that are unique to Ottawa, the women said. The store features seven or eight room-starter vignettes to inspire clients as to what’s possible, with all items customizable to different sizes, fabrics or colours. 

“We want to offer people classic pieces that are going to look great for decades,” said Miller, who’s continuing to offer in-house design services through Showroom.

Added Bonk: “It’s a step above, and not something that you would find in any old store.”

Showroom’s emphasis on luxury lighting allows the store to capitalize on Miller’s expertise in the area. She considers good lighting to be like the jewelry of the room. “It changes the entire space.”

The owners plan to manage the store themselves, which means customer service will be provided by them. “We think it’s important to be on site because we each bring a skill set from our backgrounds that we can use to help our clients plan their spaces,” said Miller.

The women, both of whom live in the west end, liked the idea of opening a shop in Stittsville, which has a growing population of more than 50,000 residents.

Launching a new bricks-and-mortar store has not been without its challenges. The women had to commercially fit-up the empty space to meet the needs of their new shop. Because their furniture and accessories are transported from other parts of Canada and the United States, there were also logistical problems related to shipping, duty fees and receiving. The women rent warehouse space in Stittsville due to their lack of a loading dock or storage area.

What’s been wonderful about the journey, the friends said, is how well they get along and are able to complement each other’s strengths. Bonk particularly appreciates Miller’s calming presence. “I never worry until I have to, and I have really high-risk tolerance,” Miller acknowledged.

Additionally, the pair has received unconditional support from their respective husbands, Derek Miller and Radek Bonk, the latter of whom keeps busy by coaching his kids in hockey and by managing certain household chores. The eldest, Oliver, 19, was drafted last year by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Radek has also visited Showroom on occasion to lend a hand. As a larger-sized man, he has a conspicuous presence. Certainly, the retired NHLer was noticed by the trades people on site. “They’re doing their thing and Radek walks in,” Miller recalled good-humouredly of their star-struck reaction. “You should have seen the one’s guy’s face. He was not expecting it.”

Jill Bonk, Jennifer McGahan
From left, owners Jill Bonk and Jennifer Miller seen inside their new Showroom Furniture + Lighting store located on Stittsville Main Street. Photo by Caroline Phillips


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