Dominion Sewing Studio on The Kingsway in Sudbury. Sept. 23/20 (Amanda Harte/CTV Northern Ontario)

Several small Sudbury businesses that complement each other have teamed up under one roof to weather the global pandemic.

Over six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, people are continuing to find ways to adapt to the constantly changing circumstances.

Kaitlyn Vallieres has found a very unique way to stay open and keep her company, Kitt on a Box, in business.

Kitt On A Box is a custom fashion, sewing, and alterations shop. After studying fashion techniques and design in Toronto, she moved back to Sudbury in 2016 upon graduation and started working out of her apartment before opening her first retail location on Elgin Street in March 2019.

Once the lockdowns began, a year later, she was forced to close.

"I was partnered with Starlotte Satine Vintage and when she decided to close her physical location in June as she transitioned to an online store, I was out of a shop location. I was closed from March 14 until Sept. 15 and it was a huge loss for me," said Vallieres.

Adapting to meet the demand

"I went from making custom wedding dresses to custom face masks overnight," Vallieres said.

Then a new business opportunity fell into her lap and she decided to partner up with two other local businesses that she said share the same vision and values.

"I have partnered up primarily with Dominion Sewing Centre. They were looking to expand their business and I was looking for new studio space. Outrival Branding Inc. is the other business in the same location," said Vallieres. "The three of us really make sense to be in the same space. We have a custom embroidery shop, a fabric shop, and a fashion designer/seamstress all under one roof."

Eric Cloutier is the founder of OutRival, custom apparel and promotional items. He too saw product demand change.

"Many of which were graduating classes who wanted something to commemorate the year in absence of actual graduation. Masks have turned into a great business opportunity and we are supplying customized masks to local businesses and schools," said Cloutier.

Win-win with a natural fit

Vallieres originally partnered up with the two other businesses to cut down costs and double the business' exposure.

"Dominion has been selling and maintaining high-end sewing machines for decades and partnering with them, Sprout, an up-and-coming embroidery provider, just made sense," said Vallieres. "We can not only work together but cross-promote and support each other."

Cloutier said the idea began with some conversations about their businesses and how each was able to grow through the pandemic.

"We realized that there might be a partnership fit here, as there was definitely some overlap between the two businesses. After some additional discussions, Outrival decided the best thing to continue to grow the business and the brand was through a partnership with a vested interest," said Clouthier.

Now, all of the businesses operate out of the retail space on Kingsway Boulevard.

"We don’t have a large location with a big sign out front but we are known through word-of-mouth and we do what we can to get out in the community,” said Cloutier.

Vallieres would highly recommend other businesses partner up if it makes sense for their model.

"It helps to cut rent costs; it exposes both businesses in one place and I know for my business, it's the most practical option," said Vallieres.

Cloutier feels that partnering with another business is dependent on each business' vision and position they are in.

"If you can find a business that aligns with your visions and it will help grow your company or minimize overhead cost for your business then it may make sense," said Cloutier.

Vallieres said that the best thing the public could do right now is to support small locally-owned businesses. 

"I know I've been feeling the love from the community as I've had several people asking when I would be reopened so they can get their favourite sweater mended or have a custom dress made. I'm very thankful that my business can live on in our ever-changing world," said Vallieres.