Travel treasures

Downtown store gets merchandise from annual global trips

Co-owner of Modern Primitive David Parkinson says the most popular pieces in the store change depending on seasonal trends.
Co-owner of Modern Primitive David Parkinson says the most popular pieces in the store change depending on seasonal trends.
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Modern Primitive isn’t just another shop sprawled across the stretch of Princess St. — it’s a place that traces the travels of its storeowners.

The store has an array of jewellery and clothing for shoppers to browse, straying away from mass-produced items and opting for unique pieces from across the globe.

David Parkinson co-owns the store with his wife Bonnie. He’s been in the jewellery buying and selling business for over 20 years and he said Modern Primitive started with an encounter in Spain.

“I met a guy from Argentina. We used to work on the same markets in Pamplona during big events like the running of the bulls,” Parkinson said. “The guy said to me: ‘I’ll give you the key to life if you want to travel’.”

Parkinson met his wife while in Spain and they began to sell jewellery together.

After the couple traveled around for a few years in Europe, Parkinson said he and his wife decided to move to Canada because she was anxious to come back home.

The couple first opened a shop at 120 Princess St., later moving to their current location at 72 Princess St.

When the shop first opened, most of their jewellery was from Mexico.

“There’s a huge market for jewellery in Mexico. It’s very popular there,” he said.

At first they only sold jewellery in the store, but later decided to expand into the back area and bring in apparel.

“It was a normal progression,” Parkinson said.

Markets in Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal and India are just a few of the places that Parkinson has traveled through to buy products to sell at the store.

“When I go there, I go to the market first to see what’s going on. Markets aren’t like what they are here — markets are huge and they have a whole section of artisans,” he said.

In order to decide what items to purchase, Parkinson said he simply takes a look around.

“I look at what the tourist girls are wearing because those are the kinds of things girls here would wear.”

Parkinson added that even if there is a language barrier when he travels, everyone understands the language of buying and selling.

“People get the idea if I want to buy something from them,” he said.

On average, trips last a couple of months and items are shipped to Canada after they are chosen.

Parkinson said half of the money is given immediately to pay for production costs while the shipper gets the rest of the money to give to the merchants and artisans upon delivery of the finished items.

He added that the most popular items in the store often vary.

“Some years you may get a hot item of jewellery that everybody wants, like feather earrings for example, and it’s always changing,” he said.

Parkinson said they are planning to expand Modern Primitive with a location opening in Westport, a town one hour north of Kingston.

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