Favourite local achiever under 30
1. Lauren Wittmann
2. Alex Kohut
3. Bevvy Teyems / Jaydin Pommer (tie)
Favourite new local independent business
1. Riley Gray Café
2. Keener Jerseys
3. One Sixteen
“I’m sitting here blushing right now. It makes us feel very special. We work very hard to make the store welcoming and a nice time. It’s very rewarding that people agree and want us to know by voting.”
Lauren Wittmann exudes joy, creativity and fun, so it’s no wonder that Riley Grae feels like an extension of those feelings.
When asked how they foster that environment, Wittmann says it has a lot to do with the trusting partnership with their mother, Trish.
“She trusts my gut a lot with newer and kinda obscure stuff. It’s special to me that she trusts me to make those decisions and also special that enough people in the city like those items enough to buy them and keep us in business. I’m very lucky to be able to curate and make whatever I like,” they say.
That spirit of collaboration goes beyond the mother-daughter dynamic and extends to the rest of the space.
“The whole space has always been community-orientated, and it’s built out of multiple businesses. We always say we’re a bit of a minimall. We share the space with Nails Thank You (Devin), Die Blume (Holly) and Gray Beauty (Shayna) who all operate their businesses out of here. We’re always welcoming of anyone who wants to come into the space.”
Wittmann says Riley Grae started when she began selling homemade crafts at mini-markets when she was 15. That’s why it’s so special when they can extend that opportunity to others through their summer pop-ups every Saturday.
“We don’t sell any local products in the store,” Wittmann says. “Instead, we host pop-ups so the local people can shop directly through the artist, and the artist can keep all the profits from what they sell.”
Wittmann’s achievements aren’t restricted to Riley Grae. Other projects include their band Virgo Rising, freelance work, making of ceramics, T-shirts and stickers, as well as the recent painting of their first mural on the walls outside of Riley Grae.
When asked of their greatest accomplishment thus far, Wittmann says she’s most proud of “creating a job for myself that I’m happy at, where I feel supported and creative and passionate. Everything I’m working towards right now feels like something I could do for the rest of my life.”
Published in Volume 77, Number 12 of The Uniter (December 1, 2022)