A well-known Nova Scotia fashion designer who recently opened a boutique in Toronto is questioning whether the Big Smoke is sending her a sign after a series of scary incidents had her fearing for her safety. 

In the span of a few months, Lisa Drader-Murphy said she's had to call police about a stalker, has been robbed of thousands of dollars, and spent 20 terrifying minutes cornered by a violent sexual offender in her Queen Street West boutique. 

"I feel myself kind of getting short of breath just recalling the incident because it was so frightening," Drader-Murphy told the CBC's Mainstreet. 

'Sheer terror'

Drader-Murphy said it was a busy August day when the man, who she later learned was a recently released sex offender, walked into her store and began berating her with foul language and lewd gestures. 

She said she feared for her safety so she grabbed the phone to call police, but they questioned her about whether it was a domestic dispute.

Lisa Drader-Murphy at HP store

Lisa Drader-Murphy with her daughter Sarah, who has played a big role in how her mother came to start her own fashion line. (Sue Siri)

"I'm really panicking. I'm thinking nobody's doing anything and here I am in this store, trapped with this guy that's already told me what he plans to do to me," she said.

Drader-Murphy said the man smashed the store's window display before lunging, nearly missing her and striking a mannequin instead. 

"It was sheer terror. I thought this is it, this crazy person, he is going to harm me."

It wasn't until the man realized a crowd had formed outside that he ran out of the store and down the street. Thanks to a bystander who called police, he was eventually arrested a few minutes later, she said.

To make matters worse, Drader-Murphy already had to involve police about another man who was stalking her at her apartment and store. He followed her around for three months, she said, but appears now to be leaving her alone. 

Peace of mind gone

Drader-Murphy was still reeling from these encounters when she got a call this week that somebody had broken into her store and stolen about $4,000 in cash and jewelry.

"What they took that was more important was our peace of mind," she said. "My staff and I now feel vulnerable, you know, constantly wondering if we've checked everything or are all the windows locked? Should we leave more lights on? Do we have adequate security?"

After the incidents, Drader-Murphy took to Facebook to ask whether it was "a message to leave or a lesson to work through the challenges?"

Police at Lisa Drader-Murphy store

Lisa Drader-Murphy said after her store was robbed, police were able to lift fingerprints so she hopes they find the perpetrator soon. (Submitted by Lisa Drader-Murphy)

A silver lining

The designer from the Annapolis Valley has shown her styles in celebrity suites at the Golden Globes, Oscars and Cannes Film Festival, and now has five stores in Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Toronto. 

She said the hardest part has been how the fear has affected her creativity. 

Lisa Drader-Murphy Fashions

Lisa Drader-Murphy said she's not ready to give up on Toronto just yet. (David Elliot)

"I'm a creative entrepreneur and that's what keeps the wheels turning, and I have to be in the right state of mind in order to let those juices flow," she said. 

But Drader-Murphy is also determined not to let this drive her out of a neighbourhood she's come to love.

"If one can say there's a silver lining from this, it's that I have great friends in that neighbourhood and I'm not anxious to pull out of there."

With files from the CBC's Mainstreet