Jane LaBatte

Fine goods and a fine hound dog at White Elephant

By the Get Leashed Doggy Style team
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One thing that every dog lover knows for certain is that a shop with a dog in it becomes more welcoming. It’s a handy trick; having a dog peering out of your store window at people passing by. Especially if your dog happens to be one of the most stop-in-your-path breeds out there, which is the case with hound dogs. Their floppy ears and droopy, character displaying faces (and their character is the finest) beckon people to say hello. So you might say that Pepper brings more customers into White Elephant on James Street in Hamilton. Of course, if you think that, you must not have taken a look at all the fine wares they have in store, because they draw enough attention on their own.

Jane LaBatte opened the doors to White Elephant along with her best friend in 2008 and quickly, along with other trendy establishments like Needlework, have made this strip in Hamilton a hotspot for crafty, hip individuals.

Here’s Jane to tell you more about White Elephant, her dog Pepper, and the lifestyle they lead.

Tell us about yourself:

I am a co-owner of White Elephant, two shops in Hamilton that sell Canadian-made clothing, as well as handmade jewelry, accessories and gifts. I opened our first shop with my good friend Hollie in 2008 on James St. North, and together we just opened our second location last August in Westdale.  We love offering independently-made and produced products, and giving someone an alternative to big box stores.

As co-owner of two shops, I don’t really ever have a “routine.” Each day is different depending on what needs to be done – and being an entrepreneur means I have my hand in a little bit of everything. Most days you can find me on the floor of the shops helping ladies pick out dresses, behind my computer working on our staff schedule, ordering new goods for the shop, and texting Hollie a lot about whatever happens to be going on at that moment.

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Tell us about your pet:

My dog’s name is Pepper and she’s an 8 1/2 year-old basset hound. I adopted Pepper five years ago from the Basset Hound Rescue of Ontario (BHRO) after I first met her through my friends who were fostering Bassets. I had met a few of the dogs they had fostered and they were all adorable, but something about Pepper really clicked with me and I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I wasn’t planning to get a dog at the time, but after three weeks of going back and forth, thinking about adopting her every single day, I finally took the plunge and I’m so happy I did.

Pepper had been given up twice by the time I adopted her, so she had a lot of trust issues and separation anxiety when I first got her. She’s improved so much over the past five years, but still needs to follow me around from room to room all the time to make sure I’m not going anywhere. She’s so affectionate and really just the biggest baby. All Pepper really wants out of life is to be sitting on someone’s lap at all times. If I ever get another dog that is even remotely independent it’s going to be a tough adjustment.

What does your ideal weekend look like?IMG_2225

I’m a pretty big homebody, but in the summer I love getting outside as much as I can. My ideal weekend would be coffee at home in the morning, a hike in the woods with Pepper and my partner Doug, and then a trip to our favourite swimming quarry for the day, followed by a backyard BBQ with friends. In the summer we try to get away camping as much as possible, and have a favorite island site we can bring Pepper to and let her off leash. It’s my ideal summer trip.

Describe your personal style:

I don’t stick to a specific style, but I try to always look cute and put together, while also staying pretty fuss -free. I wear Canadian-made as much as possible.

What inspires you?

I’m always inspired by other entrepreneurs – Hamilton has so many people following their dreams right now and working really, really hard to make things happen.

How would you describe the look and feel of your shop?

We really work hard to make White Elephant feel like a store anyone would be happy to shop in. We’re constantly changing it up and doing mini renovations and projects, but ultimately we want White Elephant to feel warm, welcoming, and like the kind of place you would love to come back to. We love finding beautiful antique furniture to merchandise with, and we change up our displays and windows regularly.

A story about your pet:

Like most hounds, Pepper is really, really good at finding food if we forget to put anything away. We’ve had to become really good at never leaving anything on the counters, but every once in a while someone slips up and leaves something out. One time I came home to find that someone had left a box of cookies out, and Pepper had gotten into it and eaten them all. Or at least I thought she had eaten them all. When we went to bed that night, Pepper ran into the guest room and started going crazy trying to move the pillows off the bed. When I went over to see what was up, I found a cookie that she had hidden behind the cushion. The next morning she went crazy for a cushion on the couch downstairs and I found another cookie. She had been hiding them for later!

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