Community Spotlight - Kim Winsor

Kim Winsor knows what is entailed in a hard day's work, 6631 of them to be exact, because she has been the co-owner and visionary for her successful fashion and gift boutique located in the heart of downtown, St. John’s, Newfoundland for over 18 years. She’s spent those years growing and turning her shop into a community stalwart devoted to providing a great variety of products, supporting the arts and community and being hailed by staff as ‘one hell of an awesome employer.’

From the intricate floral chandeliers to the cool paper chain canopy, and all the special hand-selected displays, Kim pours heart and art into every inch of her shop. When it comes to the apparel, accessories, and gifts, she takes an equal amount of care.  She carefully curates each item herself making sure to have a healthy mix of local and Canadian offerings amongst other sought after European and North American product lines. 

Kim takes sustainability very seriously and makes ethical and eco-friendly product choices when she can and plans to ramp up the supply of these offerings over the next year. “Whenever we select clothing we make sure the Designer is fully vetted and that manufacturing is only occurring in locations that have very high standards and are against modern slavery”. Nearly every piece of the boutique's decor and displays are upcycled. 

Supporting the arts and community is very near and dear to Kim and thus she ensures that Johnny Ruth shows regular support to a variety of local charities, is a drop off point for the Food Sharing Association and also has monthly showcases, often in the shop window, allowing artists and craftspersons from across different disciplines a chance to have increased exposure and support.

She creates a warm and welcoming company culture where personal growth is highly encouraged. There is a deep level of understanding that each person in her employ is an individual with a life of their own that can have twists and turns and road bumps, and Kim understands them all and works happily and thoughtfully to make sure each team member feels included and cared for. 

To not only survive but thrive in the world of retail through various global economic impacts is no small feat, but for Kim Winsor, it's all in a day's work. It's all part of the process of evolving and she finds true joy in meeting people from around the globe that find themselves in her boutique, being a part of the vibrant downtown core, connecting with fellow Newfoundlanders and being a part of their story in some little way is what gets Kim up and going everyday!  When she is able to help one of those lovely people transform with a beautiful new wardrobe or help them select just the right gift for a loved one she knows she’s taken the right path. 

We managed to coax Kim into being the subject of the year end Community Spotlight because we are all so proud to have her as our fierce lioness leader and just like all of you we wanted to dig deeper into who is Kim Winsor anyways?!?


Johnny Ruth has been in business for over 18 years! Wow! 

What was the inspiration behind starting Johnny Ruth?

I was an army brat so I moved around a lot. My family was from Newfoundland and we ended up moving back to Newfoundland when I was going to grade 12 in 1983 and I got a job at Woolworths for the holidays because my aunt and uncle worked in the bakery there.  I continued to work hard for other people and retail was something I was a natural at and enjoyed. I spent ten years at the Newfoundland Weavery while I was in college and much of what I learned about business I learned from Gail and Jane. In 2005 I was working at a popular downtown fashion boutique, Wenches and Rogues and Dave Hopley was running Living Planet and was creating these great Newfoundland artist-designed silk screened T-shirts that were very popular. He was looking to expand his business and I was looking to run my own show so we said why not go big or go home! The rest is history!

What was the first thing you ordered for the shop?

When Dave and I teamed up Living Planet already had its line of silk screened merchandise and so the first fashion accessory line we ordered was Anne Marie Chagnon, a jewelry designer and multi disciplinary artist from Montreal that creates truly original and remarkable pieces. 



What is your favorite story behind selecting a brand?

I was in a coffee shop in Toronto waiting in line and in classic Newfoundlander fashion,  I struck up a conversation with the two women in front of me. It turns out they were Karen Dagg and Stacey Patterson, the designers behind what is now one of our most popular lines. They told us they had a studio in Kensington Market. We hit it off over chai tea and chips and I fell in love with their designs and knew I had to have them for Johnny Ruth.

Customers comment everyday on how beautiful the shop is! She says she's not crafty but her employees would beg to differ!

Where do you come up with the gorgeous design ideas?

I often think from a sustainability perspective when choosing something to display in the shop so a lot of the decor and shelving are upcycled pieces I’ve collected or found and reused or repurposed. I never throw things out that can be useful! Sometimes I’ll take inspiration from things I see online but also art and nature are very inspirational to me. Everything needs to have an element of fun!


Everything in the store is so carefully curated.

What process do you go through when selecting products to be sold in the store?

I carefully research the supplier before deciding to purchase anything. We always prefer local and Canadian suppliers because it's easier to vet them and ensure their values and practices align with ours in terms of ethics. When selecting clothing we try to select companies that have a balanced approach to social and global responsibility. Each item is chosen after careful consideration of our customers' wants and needs and we select unique, meaningful and fun gifts and clothing that we know our customers will love and will empower them when they are building their wardrobe.


What age range shops at Johnny Ruth?

We have something for every age group. We carry children's clothing, books and toys and our other gifts and clothing really has a massive age range it would appeal to. We think that age is just a number anyways and should not define what you wear or what you buy. It's all about preference and feeling great!

Describe the shopping experience at Johnny Ruth. 

Do you have lots of regular customers? How do you go about maintaining a customer? 

Our customers are the best. I’m sure every business thinks that but we truly feel blessed to have so many regular customers. Many have been with us since the beginning and we have grown together. Some have become lifelong friends. Being in our location on Water Street means that we are a prime spot for tourists and visitors as well and we absolutely love meeting them, learning more about them and welcoming them to our province and shop.  We consider ourselves to be downtown ambassadors and we actually train our employees to send customers to other shops to share in the support. I think the key is a heavy dose of Newfoundland hospitality combined with treating everyone like family or at least a VIP, because they are! We really care about the people that come into our shop. We are grateful for them from the moment they step in the door. We want them to be happy, to find things they want or need, that gives them joy in some way or relieves stress. We shop with them to make sure they are armed with the best knowledge to select the perfect gift, find what they are seeking, consider something they potentially did not think of and feel completely amazing in every way before they leave. 

What was one of your biggest business challenges?

Owning a business is all about challenges and accomplishments but covid was certainly the most unique and unexpected. That was a challenge for all businesses and people but even from challenges there is always a silver lining. We bit the bullet and started a website which was long overdue so we are really happy about that and we continue to work to improve our online presence everyday. It also added that bit of extra value to everything we do now. We were always very grateful as business owners but being able to come out of that and still be here and have such incredible staff and customers return is such a blessing.

Customers turn to Johnny Ruth for style advice.

What is something that you love helping customers with at Johnny Ruth?

I just love helping people feel good about themselves and confident in their clothing. I also love helping them rethink their current wardrobe so that adding in key pieces from Johnny Ruth makes sense and they don’t feel they need to completely recreate their wardrobe each season. It's equally wonderful to help someone select just the right gift for someone in their life and see that aha moment in their eyes when they realize they've come to the right place.

How would you describe your own style?

I think I’m a good blend of fashion, fun and practical. In this province layers are a must and so I think it's practical to make sure you have good quality pieces that you can layer and still function no matter if you are in the office, at the cabin or running errands. I just like to show that you can be fashionable while doing all those things. Don’t get me wrong I love my leggings and hoodies at times but I think that fashion in this province is a bit behind the rest of Canada and with the weather here most of the year it can be easy to just grab the warmest easiest things but I always try to ask myself how can I still be cozy while just elevating my look a little more. I find that when I do that I look more put together and I feel more confident. Being unique is what fashion is all about! I always invest in good quality pieces that I love and make me feel good that I know I will want to wear for years no matter how trends change. 

Do you have a favorite item of clothing? Why is it your favorite?

Yes! My Dagg & Stacey cropped, yellow jacket.  I’ve had it for years, since the first season we were open. It's still holding strong after 18 years!  It's such a happy piece. I love wearing it with a t-shirt and jeans. I love building my wardrobe with Dagg & Stacey pieces. 

Being a successful entrepreneur means that you put a lot of hours into your business.

When you need to unwind, what do you do for yourself?

I like to spend a lot of time at my country home. Connecting with nature is good for the soul. I practice mindfulness daily and when I’m in town I make sure to take some time for myself, enjoy time spent with special people in my life and I love to go to the gym for a steam in the sauna or a swim!

If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island and could only take 3 things what would they be?

-My boyfriend

-A solar desalination system

-A deck of cards

What's the best gift you've ever received?

When Dave bought me a ticket to see my favourite artist, Iris Dement. It was so visceral and unexpected. It speaks volumes of how long we have had a beautiful partnership. To have a supportive business partner that cares about you as a person outside of business means the world. 

Why do you love living and owning a business downtown?

In any city the downtown core is where the heart of the city lives. It's where you can find the neatest little locally owned shops filled with unique treasures and fashion, where you can be sure to get locally and Canadian made items. You can immerse yourself in the culture at a trendy cafe, enjoy some of the very best eats on earth and discover artists and art from a multitude of disciplines. We are so unique here in Newfoundland and Labrador and some of the very best of what the province has to offer is centrally located downtown for all to enjoy. Downtown is the place to be and always has been!

If you could change one thing about downtown what would it be?

I’d work on more green space, community space and things to bring people out. Food trucks, markets, music and lights. We are a city with what some would call unfavorable weather much of the year but this does not stop other similar places around the world from creating even more vibrancy in their cities. Newfoundlanders are used to four seasons in one day so I think given the right reasons to come downtown we would see a boom and getting out and active with other people is proven to be great for your physical and mental health.


I know you support many of the downtown businesses but if you had to send our readers to just three to grab a gift this season what would they be and why?

Oh controversial question! I feel bad selecting only 3 because we have so so many incredible places downtown! Maybe we can do a part two with all Kim's favorite spots hahahaha. I’ll tell you about three I visited this past week. 

I would absolutely recommend that you pick up a gift card to Cajones. Lorne Loder has been an entrepreneur downtown for over 30 years! His newest venture brought delicious and authentic Mexican food to Water Street and the vibe is so fun! The decor is great and they have Margarita Mondays and Taco Tuesdays. What more could you want??

Natural Vibe Wellness Market is a family owned nutrition shop that has products to promote vitality, energy, freedom, movement and clarity. They have a sweet little cafe and a kombucha and herbal soda tap wall! The owner Megan is a sweetheart! You have to check it out if you haven’t yet!


Twisted Sisters is a great little fashion boutique owned by two sisters, Tenille and Jacqueline. They have a wonderful selection of shoes and carry the wildly popular Mernini raincoat. They sell wonderful Canadian and local brands and I just love the relationship we have with them. It's always been cooperative and not competitive. There are so many great finds there for someone on your list. 

There are many myths about downtown floating around out there. 

Name three you’d like to set the record straight on.

People's perceptions. I hear people say, it's not what it used to be. They are right. It's not. It is different. Things change but it is still vibrant and there are so many great businesses down here. People say there is no parking. That’s not true. There is so much parking. There is on the street parking and parking garages. You can pay through an app or using the on street machines. After 6 and on weekends it's free. People say there are so many vacant storefronts. That’s not true. Most of the storefronts have active business and there is always something new coming. People think downtown is dangerous but it is not. We do have our share of social problems in the city but there is very little violence happening day to day downtown and virtually no violence between people that are unknown to one another.  The negative language has become a habit for people and these things are just not fact.  

You are a huge supporter of the arts and small business at Johnny Ruth. 

Why is that so important to you?

Newfoundland and Labrador has some of the most talented people on earth and I think because we are an island with less access and resources than some larger urban centers that often we don’t have the same opportunities. I think for that reason alone it is important to support artists, craftspersons and small businesses.  I also believe that these people and groups provide the most unique and original treasures and experiences and so I am grateful to be in a position where I can provide a space in my shop for products and popups so that I can help them expand their audiences.

What is one thing you have learned about yourself in 2023?

I am always in learning mode. One thing that stands out is that I need to step out of my shell more. I am a worker bee, always behind the scenes but it's important to step of your comfortability zone and be seen in the forefront sometimes. I have things I want to share about the business and I want to support my community even more in 2024 so I think it's important to use this platform that I am so very grateful to have and my voice to do that. 

What song is in the top spot on your current playlist?

'Cranes in the Sky' by Solange and I’m revisiting Karen Carpenter


Tell us something we don’t know about you!

I love being in the woods. I love everything about it! I even love to hide treasures for people to find in the woods, little woods gems. I love stacking wood and building wood forts! There is just something about it that brings me such joy.


In a climate where so many small businesses seem to come and go, what has been behind the success of Johnny Ruth for more than 18 years?

Oh so many things go into the success of a business. The customers of course are number one! Perseverance, team work, exceptional customer service, wonderful employees, careful curation of products and always considering our customers needs and wants first when selecting products for the shop, community support and supporting the community and those are just the things that come to top of mind.

Do you have any exciting visions for the future of JR?

We are always in an expanding mind set. We treat the business as we would a new business every year so that we can look at things fresh and see where we can grow ourselves, our team and the brand. We are constantly considering how to make even better choices for customers and serve them better, how we can better serve the community and reach more people and support our staff better. We won’t reveal any specific plans at the moment but rest assured there are always exciting visions for the future of Johnny Ruth!

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs who are early on their journey?

Surround yourself with good people who support you, never question that you will be successful, do everything with purpose, enjoy creating your own story everyday!