Your bag should reflect the person that you are.
That’s what Jon Thiessen, co-owner of U.N. Luggage, believes.
Lucky for anyone who hasn’t found the bag that tells their story yet, U.N. Luggage is hosting its annual purse party the evening of May 9. Expect a totally alternative purse shopping experience including a wine bar by Banville & Jones, paired with appies, hourly draws and 20 per cent off handbags all evening.
Thiessen owns and operates U.N. Luggage with his sister, Jennifer. The siblings have been running the luggage and bag store at 175 McDermot Avenue for roughly 10 years, after taking over the family business from their father, Peter “The Bagman” Thiessen, who bought and ran the business back in 1987.
“I grew up in (the store) so it’s just something you know and are familiar with,” Thiessen says. Unlike larger department stores, U.N. Luggage is a specialty store. They know their way around bags, wallets and travel gear. “I think a lot of people use us as a resource to find things they might not find in other places,” he explains.
Not only does U.N. Luggage pride itself on offering items you can’t find at your typical department store, but Thiessen says they also know the importance of excellent customer service. “You always hope to offer customer service that’s at a level where people are looking to come back or looking forward to coming back. That’s what we hope keeps them coming.”
This “customer-first” philosophy isn’t new for U.N. Luggage. The store was built on similar foundations that are still being prioritized to this day. “I think we are the last luggage repair store left in Winnipeg. It’s been great to be able to service what we sell so we can confidently sell the luggage that we do, knowing there’s always a chance or a risk that something’s going to get damaged. We’re confident that our repair staff are able to fix up whatever gets broken,” Thiessen says.
Unlike most luggage brands that offer a limited-time warranty, U.N. Luggage’s in-store warranty takes advantage of their repair shop by offering free repairs and servicing. What most people might not know is that department store warranties are often void if your bag suffers from “airline damage,” and in that case, the manufacturer often won’t accept the responsibility of repairing it back to usable condition. But not U.N. Luggage. Thiessen says he believes this way of approaching these issues benefits everyone, including his staff.
“I think it lends itself to making staff comfortable selling what they are because we can look after it. So, if a wheel gets knocked off, we can fix it, and there isn’t another place you can buy luggage that can offer the same kind of service,” Thiessen says.
Though U.N. Luggage is relatively small compared to its larger department store competitors, Thiessen sees this as good for the business. “You want to compete and build something better, and there’s no stopping (you) when you have a small business. You always have a chance to make something better, so, I keep on working at it,” he explains.
The store’s roots have been firmly planted in Winnipeg’s Exchange District since its opening in 1940, but that doesn’t mean that the opportunities that come with moving haven’t crossed Thiessen’s mind. “You know, you always wonder if the grass is greener, so… It’s something you consider. But you also feel like you’ve put effort into a neighbourhood, and you want to see that neighbourhood succeed,” he says. “We want to see the Exchange continue to succeed and feel like it’s on the right path. We want to stick around and see where it goes.”
Visit U.N. Luggage online at unluggage.com or find them at 175 McDermot Ave.