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Q&A with Stef Hartwig of Lore General

Q&A with Stef Hartwig of Lore General

For born and raised Islander Stef Hartwig, Lore General (a.k.a.’s downtown Victoria’s kitchen, home goods and everything-else-that’s-charming supply store) wasn’t her first retail rodeo.

 “I had another store—it was a women’s wear store called Addiction Boutique on Johnson Street—for about six years, that I co-owned with my mom,” says Hartwig. When the lease came up, she was looking for a change, and to see the world, so she hightailed it to Thailand for three years. 
But the entrepreneurial bug couldn’t be staved off for long. Living back in Victoria, Hartwig started up Lore General Store in 2016. We catch up with Stef to talk about the origins of Lore, what products she’s a fan of and what’s next for the store. 

How did Lore General Store come about? 

After living in Thailand, I came back and started working for my dad who was a developer. The owner of the building [the future home of Lore] approached me because the space had been up for lease for a long time, and asked me if I wanted to open a store. I was in a creative rut at the time, but I’ve always loved independent and local designers and I didn’t really feel like there were many who were represented downtown. In particular, there was nothing specifically on Government Street. So I said, yes.

What was the concept for Lore?

When I started, I wanted it to be a better version of tourist shop, but it’s grown into so much more than that. It very quickly changed to be more of a local market, rather than something just for visitors. I love curating the products, finding things, creating an aesthetic, a look, a brand.

What’s special about Lore?

Our connection to community. I think the fact that it’s very thoughtfully curated; every brand we bring into the shop has a story of how it came about, the maker’s story—and that’s really important to me. For example, East Van Jam. It’s a very simple product, I mean, everybody eats jam. But she (the owner, Natalie Ferrari-Morton) wanted something that was low in sugar for her children and made with only B.C. produce. So everything at Lore has a story, every product has a purpose and a meaning. 

What are some of the challenges of owning a business on the Island?

I think that owning a business in general is a challenge—it’s definitely not the easiest path to take. The heart of downtown Victoria is local and small business, so I feel really fortunate to have a business here. I think the biggest obstacle is people not wanting our city to grow or expand.

What’s something people might not know about your store? 

We have a lot of zero-waste products, and we try our best to be as sustainable as possible. That’s really important to us. We recycle everything, even all of our packaging materials. We have a refill station (hand soaps, dish soap and laundry detergent, with plans to expand), and that’s something we’ve been doing since October. And not a lot of people know that you can shop online with us. We do free local pickup, as well as delivery within the downtown core for $5 CAD. 

What’s a favourite product you have in store right now?

I love all of our skincare. All of our products are natural and made in small batches. I also am really loving Hasami, which is a brand of ceramic dishware from Japan. Honestly, there isn’t really a product I don’t love. Every product that’s in the store is there because it’s loved and cherished, and because our staff uses it and loves it and enjoys it.

What’s next on the horizon for the shop?

Since the beginning of Lore General, we have offered workshops to our community. Right now we’re collaborating with Ruth and Dean [a bakery and luncheonette on Douglas Street] on workshops where we decorate cupcakes. Co-owner Susannah and I became great friends through our businesses and it felt like a natural fit to collaborate on workshops with her. We’ll also be expanding our own house brand of products, Lore General Supplies. It’s kind of a bit of everything, skin care, kitchen and pantry items—we have zero-waste items like bulk bags and bread bags. We have lots of good things coming up!

A few things Stef is loving

A meal you’ve recently discovered in Victoria:

The tartines from Marta Cafe and Pantry.

Island spot outside of Victoria:

Sooke or Port Renfrew; I love to be in nature and both places have endless spots to explore.

A ritual:

Every night I spend 10 minutes on self care. I wash my face, apply my face oils and use my gua sha—it’s very meditative. And no matter how busy I get, I always have 10 minutes to take a moment out for myself.

Favourite way to spend your downtime:

I love to hike (or spend time outside, really), and lately I’ve been learning the art of natural dying.

Check out Lore online, or keep up to date with their workshops and latest products over on Instagram.

Lore General Store
1322 Government St., Victoria

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