Edmonton

The QUILTBAG seeks to unravel gender-based retail traditions in Edmonton

When customers walk into Rebecca Blakey's shop, The QUILTBAG, they won't find spools of thread or fabric rolls.

The store is the first in Edmonton focused on serving the LGBTQ community

Nicole Jones-Abad, left, Rebecca Blakey, centre, and Shelly Nafshi pose at The QUILTBAG in Edmonton. (Kim Nakrieko/CBC)

When customers walk into Rebecca Blakey's shop, The QUILTBAG, they won't find spools of thread or fabric rolls.

Instead there are pronoun buttons, rainbow pride tape for sports gear and racks of clothing that work for men, women and those who don't identify as either.

The name The QUILTBAG is a play on the letters LGBTQ and the store, on Calgary Trail south of Whyte Avenue, is the first in Edmonton focused on supporting and serving that community.

"The idea there are stores that are entirely queer-owned, queer-run and queer-operated is a really exciting thing," Blakey, who co-owns the store with her partner, told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"We think the idea of having LGBTQ stores is really cool, especially for kids. Because kids and their families can come in and it's like, 'This is a totally normal way of being in the world.'"

Pronoun buttons and pride tape are some of the items in stock at The QUILTBAG, the first store focused on the LGBTQ community in Edmonton. (Kim Nakrieko/CBC)

The store stocks an assortment of knick-knacks, trinkets and art work, produced by queer and trans artists. There are racks of clothing that are not organized by gender. Instead, the garments are sorted by length and occasion.

Nicole Jones-Abad was the first paying customer when The QUILTBAG opened in December.

"It's really hard for me as a trans person to find clothes that fit me in particular ways," she said. "One of the amazing things about the store is they have so many different types of clothes."

For Blakey and her partner, opening a retail business was a huge career shift, since they both have backgrounds in public education.

Their goal was to create a space where every shopper feels welcome. It's also a place where people can show support for the queer or trans people in their lives.

"Parents are excited to be able to do something so tangible to support their kids. To say, 'Yes, we'll get the things you need. We'll get you a pronoun button that says they/them.' And [it's] to say, 'We're here for you and we love you.'"

Shelly Nafshi is one of those parents. She admits it was her children who introduced her to the pronoun "they." It took some time to catch on because she didn't know anyone else who identifies with the same term.

"A space like this says to them, 'You're not the only they.' There's a whole world of theys. And those theys are thriving."