Local plants, vintage bricks and mortar a perfect balm



What started out as a nerdy ?? The teenage hobby snowballed into a booming business and new storefront in Winnipeg’s Stock Exchange District.

While other children played sports after school, Natassia Bezoplenko-Brazeau was drawn to making soap. She had read books on the subject and had started experimenting in her Saskatoon home.

?? I had cute and cheesy hobbies like that, ?? she said in her shop Northlore ?? s 75 Albert St. shop.

The young Bezoplenko-Brazeau had no plans for a career in the manufacture of personal care items. But here it is, in 2021, with two locations in downtown Winnipeg, a busy corporate website, and products in places like the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.

photos of JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Natassia Bezoplenko-Brazeau and Lucas Brazeau manufacture and sell their Northlore body care products in their store on rue Albert.

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photos by JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Natassia Bezoplenko-Brazeau and Lucas Brazeau manufacture and sell their Northlore body care products in their store in Albert Street.

Northlore opened its first street-level store in the Bourse district on October 30. Was there no advertising or promotion ?? Bezoplenko-Brazeau and his partner, Lucas Brazeau, wanted to start selling in person.

?? Just being able to let the light in and feel like we’ve finally settled in has been so rewarding, ?? said Bezoplenko-Brazeau.

Homemade soaps, scrubs and serums line the shelves and tables. At the back, large mason jars filled with herbs and rose petals wait to be used in the latest batch of Northlore products. A shock of colorful ingredients ?? including turmeric, spirulina and ultramarine ?? are kept on a counter near the retail space.

Bezoplenko-Brazeau plans to manufacture products while customers shop nearby.

?? I got really interested in the ethics behind the products, ?? she said.

<p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Natassia Bezoplenko-Brazeau started the Northlore line in Saskatchewan and landed in the Bourse district.  When the company took off, Lucas Brazeau went from part-time to full-time production manager.</p><p>“/><br/> </a><figcaption><p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Natassia Bezoplenko-Brazeau started the Northlore line in Saskatchewan and landed in the Bourse district.  When the business took off, Lucas Brazeau went from part-time to full-time production manager.</p></figcaption></figure><p>She sources her ingredients locally, mainly from Manitoba and Saskatchewan.</p><p>It all started in Saskatoon.  Bezoplenko-Brazeau and his spouse had just returned to the provinces;  she had completed her studies in political science at the University of Winnipeg.  Bezoplenko-Brazeau delved into books on popular herbalism and incorporated local plants into her products, which she made while serving as a waitress and working in a bakery.</p><p>??  I had a source… for tallow, just (from a) local farmer, ??  she said.  It would end up in the landfill anyway, so I started experimenting with that.</p><p>She and Brazeau searched the forests for spruce tips and poplar buds.</p><p>?? It’s a bit of a gold rush, ??  says Brazeau, who is a general contractor by trade.  ?? They ?? are seasons so short sometimes.  It’s fun for us to watch.</p><figure class=

<p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>“I was really interested in product ethics,” says Natassia Bezoplenko-Brazeau, founder of Northlore.</p><p>“/><br> </a><figcaption><p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>“I got really interested in product ethics,” says Northlore founder Natassia Bezoplenko-Brazeau.</p></figcaption></figure><p>Bezoplenko-Brazeau participated in its first market in 2014, armed with soaps, poplar bud skin sticks and a rosehip serum.</p><p>The markets kept coming ??  in Winnipeg, in Edmonton ??  and the Bezoplenko-Brazeau line has reached store shelves.  After a year, she quit her other jobs and focused on Northlore.</p><p>She expanded her product line as she learned more about herbalism and continually loaded her vehicle with goods to hit the road.</p><p>?? I remember pumping gas halfway between Edmonton and Saskatoon ??  it was like -42 C, and I was like, ??  It’s not even sure.  I’m alone and have a car full of stuff, ????  she said.</p><p>She stopped the markets soon after.  But, she had connections, an online presence, and wholesale customers.  So when she and Brazeau returned to Winnipeg in 2018, Northlore was well established.</p><figure class=

<p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>While brewing tea in her boutique on rue Albert, Natassia Bezoplenko-Brazeau Bezoplenko-Brazeau plans to make her Northlore products while customers shop nearby.</p><p>“/><br/> </a><figcaption><p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Blending tea in her store on rue Albert, Natassia Bezoplenko-Brazeau Bezoplenko-Brazeau plans to make her Northlore products while customers shop nearby.</p></figcaption></figure><p>Bezoplenko-Brazeau rented a studio on the sixth floor of 290 McDermot Ave.  There she would create her goods;  they ?? d mainly ship across Canada and the United States.</p><p>Then COVID-19 invaded.</p><p>?? (I) just felt like there ?? a little bit of thirst that we ?? had … for the physical connection, and the physicality of a place, ??  said Bezoplenko-Brazeau.  ?? I just wanted to create a place that would be inviting. ??</p><p>She and Brazeau live downtown.  He had been helping Northlore part-time, but when the company took over the Albert Street store in June, he stopped contracting and became the full-time production manager.</p><p>Is it just both ??  they do not intend to reduce the online or wholesale markets;  the new store is an addition.</p><figure class=

<p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>“Choosing a brick and mortar is like, ‘We’re here to stay,’ says Lucas Brazeau, Northlore partner, of the location of the Bourse district.</p><p>“/><br> </a><figcaption><p>JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>“Choosing a brick and mortar is like, ‘We’re here to stay,’ says Lucas Brazeau, Northlore partner, of the location of the Bourse district.</p></figcaption></figure><p>??  The robustness of the building is a metaphor for the robustness of the businesses there, and how they chose to be in these direct locations, ??  said Brazeau.  ?? We ?? bring this stuff to people… Choosing a brick and mortar is like, ?? We ?? are here to stay. ??</p><p>The couple will soon be hiring retail staff.</p><p>Northlore is one of nearly a dozen businesses to open in the Exchange District during the pandemic, according to David Pensato, executive director of Exchange District BIZ.</p><p>Two restaurants have closed, but foot traffic has resumed since September, Pensato said, adding he had “cautious optimism.”  for the future.</p><div class=

The Exchange District BIZ is investigating why more places have been opened than closed, but Pensato attributes it to “strong entrepreneurs,”? a high level of market and supportive customers.

?? We have a neighborhood full of fighters, ?? he said, adding that the Exchange District is one of Winnipeg’s hubs for local retailers and restaurants.

Stores need their regular customer base, and more, to recover from the pandemic, Pensato said.

Bezoplenko-Brazeau said she was ?? fleshy ?? by the community.

?? We love it and really want to invest in the busy streets, ?? she said.

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