MERRICKVILLE - Rookie small business owners Lisa and Carlos Card were hoping for a gradual rise in sales. What they didn't anticipate was a struggle to keep up with demand.
The couple behind Chaiya Decor in Merrickville thought it might take a while for their furniture import business to take off. Some people cautioned their business concept, including selling large imported pieces and furniture, had no chance of survival in a small eastern Ontario village. The naysayers were wrong. In just two years, the Cards are looking to expand into Kemptville and already have a second warehouse location in Merrickville.
"It doesn't seem to matter where we are, it's what we're selling that is key," says Carlos. "It took us by surprise to sell these big beautiful pieces. What we've found is people are willing to travel here to find them."
Their shop on St. Lawrence Street is housed in a circa 1827 stone home with just as much character as the items under its roof. You'll find a wide range of one-of-a-kind pieces from far-off places where the couple has travelled, including Indonesia.
"We are focused on only buying sustainable products, and generally from the person or families who made them," says Lisa. "We spend a lot of time in the field. Many are small, family-owned businesses like us."
Carlos and Lisa were both in the zoo field when they met 12 years ago in New Orleans. He was a conservation biologist in the U.S. and she was a veteran zookeeper at the Toronto Zoo. They settled in Toronto but Lisa had the idea of starting a little import shop - a retirement hobby. The next thing they knew they were buying a property in downtown Merrickville.
They were quick out of the gate but soon realized they had a supply issue. In May 2016, they brought in a full container of products thinking it would sustain them throughout the busy summer season. They sold out in a month. Another large shipment was brought in that August. Once again, they sold out. After those experiences, they began doubling orders.
"The business is well beyond our expectations. Neither of us ever imagined we'd be selling this much product," Carlos says. They do a large number of deliveries to Gatineau, Orleans and Ottawa. Many regular Brockville and Perth area customers visit the shop. Later in September, Chaiya furniture and decor will be featured on the Ottawa Fall Home Show celebrity stage.
"We just keep scaling up and up," says Carlos. Lisa has a knack for picking out items that will sell, an aesthetic intuition. Carlos is the numbers guy. Also on board is sales manager Andrew Fielding, who grew up in the Brockville area.
Learn more by visiting their
and check out their travel blog. A website is in development. Give them a call at 613-269-4242 and take a drive to their Merrickville location today.