Boutique Banking

North End’s KEW Home designed by chance, customer service and loyalty

"It was one of those happenstance moments," David McQuaid says about running into Ray Frizzle in Toronto. They started talking about furniture and products, and their own vision for a new boutique furniture store in Halifax. As it turned out, they were on the exact same page.

Ray and David imagined a place where shopping for furniture was fun and customers felt good about their purchase. They would stock the store with quality pieces that were affordable, modern in design and made for real life.

Getting started wasn't easy. The initial days of KEW were filled with coffee and late nights. Ray and David laugh at the memory, saying coffee houses should have been their headquarters because they frequented them so often.

Finding commercial rental space in downtown Halifax wasn't easy back in 2013. Ray and David spent months searching for the ideal space to call home for KEW. Eventually they found it, next to an art gallery downtown.

As soon as their struggle to find a location was finally over, getting the financial pieces in place to operate the business quickly became another one. According to David, most banks were shying away from small companies with big-ticket items at the time, especially when it came to providing a point-of-sale (POS) system. “We had the money to start the business, so we weren’t looking for a loan,” says David. “We just needed a bank account and a debit machine, but we kept hearing “no” until we went to CUA.

Ray had dealt with CUA’s Commercial Team in his previous business, and did his personal banking there as well. He knew CUA had a reputation for showing up and supporting small, independent businesses in a big way. So, he booked an appointment for the duo to make their case.

With a strong business plan, previous entrepreneurial experience and ample paperwork to back up their position, CUA had all they needed to say “yes”. A quick phone call to their POS provider resulted in a green light to proceed.

And so, in 2013, KEW became the boutique furniture store Ray and David had dreamed of, filled with modern, simple pieces that were well-made at a decent price. For Ray and David, the concept of “boutique” isn’t about price, but rather the experience.

When you walk into KEW, there’s something markedly different about the vibe. The music, local art, funky décor and clean-line furniture are packaged in a warm welcome heard from a corner where David or Ray are working on new product display. It’s as though the store has been reserved for you – and of course the owners, KEW’s only employees.

“We understand layout, space, flow, and how people move through a room,” says David. “We’re small enough so when someone comes in, they get us.” Ray adds, “We love the process of getting to know people and their style. And we’re honest – our customers know we don’t sell something that we wouldn’t put in our own home.”

Ray and David have created a loyal customer base who visit to say hello in between redecorating projects. “We care about our customers so much that we’ve refused to sell a piece until they go home to measure their space,” David says. “Delivering a piece of furniture that doesn’t fit through the door doesn’t go over so well.”

Caring about people, being honest, delivering great products and personalized service – those are the things David and Ray credit for KEW’s continued growth and success as a boutique furniture store, now a block South of the Hydrostone market on Gottingen Street. For Ray, service tops the list of why clients come back to KEW, and why KEW continues to bank with CUA.

“CUA stepped up when we needed them then, and they continue to show up now – even for the little things,” says Ray, recalling a day when David couldn’t leave the store to do a wire transfer. “CUA sent a staff member to our store to help us out and get it done.”

David adds, “That kind of service is not common – especially in banking – but they’ve been doing it forever. They visit our store, buy our products, collaborate on fun ideas and profile us on social media. It’s as though they see themselves as partners in KEW’s success.”

Having a partner in their corner makes it easy to look the other way when other bank managers come knocking, offering KEW incentives to switch. “We know where our loyalty stands,” says Ray. “When everyone else said no, CUA said yes. We’ll never forget that.”

With a nod, the pair – in unison – note, “You can’t put a price on loyalty.”

The above article was featured in The Coast on October 18, 2018.

For more information on CUA's commercial services, including account and financing options for your business needs, click here.

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