2010 Winners

Sault Ste. Marie | Private Sector

Marian Theriault

Marian Theriault

Life is to be lived, says Marian Theriault, owner of Ithaka.
It took a leap of faith to jump back into it again after leaving a 30-year marriage with few earnings in the bank and a son to help through law school.
Theriault needed to become a survivor in more ways than one, and knew she could do this.

She found a small storefront in Sault Ste. Marie and signed a two-year lease with the landlord before she could change her mind and thus began the seeds of Ithaka, a high-quality clothing store for active women of all ages.

“I took one day at a time rebuilding my life and I’ve amazed myself,” she says.

The name Ithaka originated from a poem by Constantine P. Cavafy. In it, Cavafy speaks of following one’s own road of adventure and discovery, of destiny and awareness until one has gained all the richness and the wisdom of knowing that Ithaka is a state of one’s heart and soul.

Theriault wanted to sell comfortable clothes for all walks in life and the journey through it.
“If you are comfortable with who you are and what you are wearing, you are more apt to get out and enjoy life,” she says.

Coming from a family who owned a sports store called the Duke of Windsor provided Theriault with the experience, vision and knowledge to create her new future.

“I don’t think I could go to school for what I learned back then,” she says, adding that at 13 years old, she was ordering store goods, working long hours and hiring staff. Theriault always thought she would assume the family business with her brothers. After Frank (one of her brothers) died in 1995, her direction changed. She was standing in her family’s store when it hit her.

“I have to do something creative,” she recalls.

She had a lot of self-confidence; however, after 30 years in an abusive marriage, her self-esteem sunk to an all-time low. She really didn’t know who she was anymore or what she liked. It took time for Theriault to reconnect to the woman she really is. Today, she is “just doing her thing” and is “blown away” by how remarkable the journey has been so far.

Customers usually shopped outside the Sault for active women’s wear, but now local interest has blossomed, allowing sales to remain in the city - and in an area that has long been neglected.

Theriault is not only a member of the Downtown Association in Sault Ste. Marie but also promotes and participates in the CIBC Run for the Cure and supports other women who are experiencing difficulty in their lives through the Freedom of Abuse program at the Algoma Council on Domestic Violence.

“It took courage to open Ithaka all on my own - starting from scratch, my initial dream and decision to go for it, naming the business, finding a home for the business, financing, ordering initial inventory, advertising... I felt I had way more to gain than to lose, so I went for it,” she says.

The Ithaka poem sits on top of the counter in her store along with the book Simple Abundance, a daily inspirational meditation journal. She has created a warm place in her heart and it shows.

Today she takes care of customer needs, ordering special pieces for a particular client, becoming part of the downtown fabric and gently wrapping up newly bought items in multi-coloured tissue with a card marked “Thank you.”

Keeping it simple and real is Theriault’s mantra today.