FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Nancy Rosychuk
November 25, 2014
What has contributed most to your success?
“Determination, ability to organize, to carry through and follow up."
What has held you back?
“Expansion growth – going to more stores – would require that I clone myself. In terms of delegating … I’m not there yet. My vision is my vision!”
Her story … well there’s a lot more to her than the store, but her store is a reflection of, the joy of, its owner – someone who has been dressing Calgary women well for a long time, and her success comes from a long, colourful and life-filled journey.
Nancy Veronica Rosychuk is owner, buyer and chief executive of everything – and she’s come a long way to be there. She says, “As a retailer I am empowering women – helping, ensuring her needs are met.”
The route, from humble Montreal beginnings - her mother, graduated from high school and worked in the offices of Marconi. Her dad was from the Bahamas, but wanted a better life in Canada. He made his way to Montreal and worked as an accountant for Avon. They met when mutual friends introduced them. Nancy was born in north Montreal, raised on the West Island, Nancy was the middle girl – fourth born of eight children in a working class Catholic family. Grade school in Montreal, college at CEGEP, retail career with Sears, Eatons, Bloomsburys, Mexx; marriage, two sons, divorce, Montreal, Toronto, Newmarket, Cornwall – crooked trail in administration and sales, merchandising everything from shoes to paint, to men’s wear, to women’s fashions – then a transfer to Calgary. A fresh start.
“My divorce settlement money was running out, and I wanted to buy a house. Adam was 13, Mark was 15. I researched for a year – and chose Calgary. I didn’t want to go back to anywhere I’d been. The boys flew – I drove with the cats and plants.”
After Eaton’s folded, Nancy moved to a local independent specialty retailer – Bloomsbury’s. It wasn’t a great location – but it was fashion. One day the owner’s brother Gary came in to change some light bulbs …
She dated Gary Rosychuk for four years. They married in 2004. Along that path, one day the question ‘don’t you want to own your own store?’ came up … and the rest is NV Fashions' history. Nancy bought her store in 2008, renovated and changed the name in 2011.
I met Nancy about 10 years ago – our paths crossed at a Toastmasters event, and I got acquainted with her and husband Gary. I haven’t seen them much for a couple of years. We reconnected recently, over lunch, for a recap of a career and life with more twists than most and more tragedy than anyone deserves. But, she’s back! Not with swagger or bravado, but with drive and style, class and courage …
And ... I asked about Adam – Nancy’s son who died tragically two years ago following a car crash – at the end of the interview. Nancy said it is tough to talk about, especially at this time of year, so she chose to respond a few days later with this written answer: “I will never be the same person I was, and I don’t want to be. Adam’s death has caused me to look at life’s possibilities; how not to hide in a corner because I just want to grieve forever; how to increase my love and respect for others (not always successful!); how to listen more and be less judgmental.”
I asked Nancy how she sees her business – women’s fashion retail – generally; ‘how’s business?’ over the next quarter?
… amazing. Fashion industry has opened its thinking for ‘every woman’ – no lack of colour, style, variety. It’s all in-stock, in-style and in-fashion. There is no wrong! Sales are strong. And, the impact of Nordstrom’s on your business? Almost nil.
And over the next five years?
… continued specializing in Canadian and American brands (ie: Joseph Ribkoff, French Dressing, Brighton). We have a Thai sweater line, French hosiery. Our growth comes in two ways – customer service drives business for independents. Unlike the chains, we can support smaller fashion houses, present a unique assortment unlike what customers see in chain stores.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… to be treated the way I treat others. I want people who treat me the way I treat my customers.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Nancy Rosychuk and NV Fashions, why do they do business with you, why have they chosen you, over your competitors?
… our clientele of 4,500 feel welcomed but not pressured.
How would you describe your leadership or management style?
… loosey-goosey. How I run my life, my household, my business – I take care of the priorities, seek advice when needed, be informed – and then I’m going to do what I’ve already decided!
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… not about my business. That I’ve already lost one son – so I worry about them all - Gary, my son, stepson, their wives, one grandchild and two cats.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my mother – she managed a 10-person household on a starvation wage. She was innovative, kept things together. I had some control-freak ‘best bosses’; Huguette at Sears in Cornwall, Dee at Kuehne + Nagle – they taught me how to manage a large staff and keep things in control. And Adam ...
… lunches with friends. Gary and I do long walks on weekends – Kananaskis, Banff, Fish Creek Park, Glenmore Reservoir. Toastmasters. Arts and crafts. I grew up making all my own clothes – I loved being unique.
What do you read?
… I used to read a lot, mysteries, trade publications - but I stopped when Adam died. Lately, I’ve started again. Gone Girl. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
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