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Gypsy Alley on Front Street to close its doors

For the past six years Emily Gillan has run the fashion boutique her late daughter Talia started, but now it's time to let go; 'I want them to remember that a young girl in her twenties made a success story'

After almost two decades of being a Front Street staple, fashion boutique Gypsy Alley is closing its doors for good.

Closing is a difficult decision for owner Emily Gillan, who kept the store going in memory of its original founder, her late daughter Talia.

“Now that we’ve run it for the last six and a half years we just felt we had too much on our plate,” Gillan tells ThoroldToday. “It’s time to let it go.”

Gillan has owned the building Gypsy Alley is located in since 2004. It’s a designated heritage site, and it has played an important part in her family’s history.

“This building was owned by my father’s uncle in the early 1900s,” Gillan says. “He’s the one that sponsored our family to come to Canada. My father came from Italy before my mother and my sister and I, and he used to sleep in the bedroom upstairs.”

When the building was put on the market in 2004, Gillan immediately fell in love with it.

“I’m a real estate agent and I had it for sale,” says Gillan. “At the time no offers came in so I called my daughter and I asked her if she would come home and start a business. I knew she could do it. She was tough as nails.”

Gillan’s daughter Talia was 28 and living in Toronto at the time, but she jumped at the chance to move closer to home and start her own fashion boutique.

Mother and daughter worked tirelessly together to get the store ready for its big opening. All that was left was figuring out a name.

“We own the right of way in the alley so I said: ‘Alley has to be in your store name,’” Gillan says. “Just before she opened it [Talia] was in Port Dalhousie with a bunch of friends. She had all this jewellery on and one of the fellas said to her: ‘You look like a Gypsy,’ and she called me and said: 'I know the name: Gypsy Alley.’”

Front Street looked much different back then.

“Downtown Thorold was a huge mess,” Gillan says. “It was all run down. It wasn’t what it looks like today. [Talia] was the first to lift up the downtown. They came from all over the place to shop in Thorold because she had the designer clothes.”

Fashion was something mother and daughter bonded over and they spent time going to trade shows together.

In 2015, tragedy struck when Talia was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her second child.

“After she delivered [the baby] she never came out of the hospital,” says Gillan. “She had a double mastectomy and they gave her 14 months.”

One year later, at age 38, Talia passed away. 

Gillan is still puzzled as to how this could have happened to her daughter.

“My daughter was a health nut,” she says. “She actually went to India and got her yoga diploma. She did that while she was doing this, so for her to get breast cancer and not survive—the amount of people that have breast cancer is overwhelming. They come through those doors and they talk to us. It’s sad. It’s scary.”

After her daughter passed away, Gillan felt that she and her husband Andrew should keep the store going.

“We just did what we had to do,” she says. “I think it was for her memory. We just didn’t want to let go. It’s part of her.”

But after six years, Gillan says it’s time for a change.

“Now we have other grandchildren, and my daughter’s children who are seven and eight,” Gillan says. “We have rental properties, I sell real estate. It was too much and we’re in our seventies.”

Letting go of the store is hard.

“It’s an emotional attachment,” Gillan says. “I couldn’t sell the business because I couldn’t see anybody else running Gypsy Alley. So even the sign is coming home with us. We just decided to liquidate.”

Gillan has sold the building and is looking forward to spending more time on herself. She says she hasn't taken a vacation in seven years. 

At the end of the day, she hopes that her costumers never forget Talia and what she achieved.

“I want them to remember that a young girl in her twenties made a success story,” she says.

Gypsy Alley is set to close at the end of the month.

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Bernard Lansbergen

About the Author: Bernard Lansbergen

Bernard was born and raised in Belgium but moved to Canada in 2012 and has lived in Niagara since 2020. Bernard loves telling people’s stories and wants to get to know those that make Thorold into the great place it is
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