Merrickville newcomer channels passion into new local business

·3 min read

Merrickville-Wolford residents now have a new business to turn to for clothing and accessory repairs, alterations, and custom work. Yanagi Repair Store is owned and operated by Merrickville newcomer Shuya Yanagisawa. Originally from Osaka, Japan, Shuya moved to Canada with his fiancé (now wife) Leia Atkinson in 2017. The pair met in Tokyo in 2016 at a Japanese/English meet-up, when Leia was over there teaching with the government. When they got engaged, Leia wanted Shuya to get to know her family and learn more about her background, so they made the decision to move to Canada.

Shuya has a university education and was working at a large advertising firm as a salesperson in Japan. However, he has always loved fashion, and was drawn to working with fabric. His job was to find new clients for the advertising firm, and he always gravitated towards trying to get artisans and craftspeople on board, because he was interested in what they did for a living.

When they moved to Canada, it was difficult for Shuya to find work in his field, so he started working at a Japanese restaurant. After taking a sewing class in 2019, he met a veteran in the field of repairs who took him on as an apprentice and taught him how to use an industrial sewing machine. In January, 2020, he was hired at Swedish company Fjallraven, working at one of their retail stores in Ottawa fixing bags and clothing. Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit in March, Shuya was let go because they didn’t have the capacity for as many employees in the store with social distancing.

It was the pandemic and being out of work that spurred Shuya to start Yanagi Repair Store, and he was able to build up a good customer base in Ottawa. Although they had always lived in the city, Leia and Shuya had visited Merrickville in the past and were drawn to its charm and the fact that so many makers live in the Village. “Shuya fell in love with Merrickville,” Leia remembers.

When Leia started working remotely, the couple decided to take the leap and make Merrickville their home. They bought a house in October of last year and moved in on January 18. Even before they moved, they joined the Merrickville and District Chamber of Commerce and Sustainable Merrickville-Wolford, so that they could get to know more people in the community. Shuya loves that people already know them when they go into the local stores and is really pleased with their move to Merrickville. “It’s so nice. When we were in Ottawa, it was so hard to be part of the community.”

Shuya is very passionate about what he does, as he loves working with fabric and enjoys the sustainability aspect of his profession. “Shuya loves fixing things,” Leia says. “Every time we get something, he does a lot of research into it to make sure it’s good quality and will last a long time, and I think he wants to do the same thing for his clients to help their products last for a really really long time.”

Shuya is now looking to build up his customer base in Merrickville-Wolford. He is very versatile and can fix clothing and accessories, do alterations, and is also open to custom work. For more information, or to get in touch with Shuya, visit www.yanagi-repair-store.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Instagram under Yanagi Repair Store, or you can reach him at 613-985-0829.

Hilary Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times