Welcome to the “About Us” page: the place where people go when they wonder, “Who the heck are these guys?”, or perhaps “I have a secret deep-seated need to do a shallow voyeuristic dive into the lives of people on the internet”. Either way, we don’t judge. If I didn’t want to spill the beans then I wouldn’t have an “About Us” page, or it would be one of those sad one-paragraph jobbies that uses sophisticated words to say nothing at all. And if you don’t know already, you will soon learn:
That’s not how we roll.
The Story of Everything Old
As with most things, this is all Andrew’s fault. Just a couple of small-town kids with small-city dreams, we had moved our landscaping company from a small Gulf Island to the bright lights of Victoria in an attempt to navigate our proverbial small-business dinghy through the outgoing waves of the 2009 financial storm. We were swiftly slapped in the face with the trout of reality when we found ourselves working harder than ever for people who seemed to not place paying their workers high up on their list of priorities. We found ourselves beached in a little farmhouse we rented in North Saanich with nothing but some fish we had canned before we moved to Victoria, and a big bag of rice that we guarded jealously against the rodent intrusions that are part and parcel of living in an old farmhouse in the country.
Now that I’ve beaten that nautical metaphor thoroughly to death, we find ourselves on a side street in downtown Victoria, taking a lunch break from a sweltering hot backyard cleanup job and wishing that lunch was something more than another cup from the thermos of coffee we’d taken to work with us that morning. Enter Andrew, Stage Left (also known as the driver’s seat of the pickup truck):
Andrew: Do you see that?!
Me: See what?
Andrew: THAT! (As if saying ‘that’ again would somehow be more helpful than the first time he said it)
Me: Is it a sandwich?
Andrew: That looks like a Medalta Crock!
See, Andrew had been researching ways to store food and had happened upon a little Canadian company by the name of Medalta as he wandered the web, and learned about the fantastic stoneware crocks they made in the early to mid-1900’s. But see, while I’ve been explaining this to you Andrew has already jumped out of the truck so I had better grab wallets and keys and follow him.
We rejoin Andrew chatting with a fellow at the back of a junk truck where sits conspicuously a light tan cylinder with a chippy lid that did, in fact, appear to be a crock. Andrew is jumping up and down in an adorably Andrew-ish way saying “I KNEW IT!”, and we’ll ignore the fact that this turned out to be a Sunburst crock rather than a Medalta crock and give him the win on this one. I won’t go into the detail of the discussion that followed because those of you that have been there will know roughly what it was like, but about 15 minutes later we were driving away, plus one crock to keep our rice safe and minus twenty-five of the forty-five dollars we had to our name. I can’t tell you how difficult that decision was, but (spoiler alert) it ended up working out for us in the end. And while living in poverty and on the bleeding edge of homelessness was terrifying, it gave us a deep appreciation for things that are made well and made to last. Because when a cup of coffee is all you get in the morning, you need a coffee grinder that will never ever break on you.
Fast forward a bit and we’ve found a couple of more reliable people to work for.
That little crock was like a gateway to the world of old, and when we had a little tiny bit of money to spare we would scour stores and garage sales for anything we could afford to make our lives a little bit more comfortable.
A harvest table here, a coffee grinder there, all would be welcomed into the loving arms of our little farmhouse to be used as they were always meant to be used. Once in a while we would come across someone selling a small collection that only had a couple of things we really needed, and that’s when we started selling things.Just little bits at first! We would end up with a second coffee grinder when we only really needed one, so we would list it online to try and get back a little bit of the cash we had spent buying the other pieces. But people would come into our house to pick things up, and the strangest thing happened. They wanted to buy other things. They wanted our mixing bowls we used every day, or our crocks that we stored potatoes and flour and rice in, or some of the crates that we were using as shelving or storage. One day someone walked in and told us that if we could find another coffee grinder like the one that we were using every day then he would PAY us for it, and a decent amount of money too!
And the lightbulb came on.
It didn’t happen all of a sudden, because of course all of a sudden businesses generally only happen to people who have some kind of a safety net. But slowly we started looking for things not just for us, but for other people who wanted the things that we loved to find. We converted one small side room of our farmhouse into a mini store that people could look through when they came to pick up items, and eventually that little side room had hours that it was open and hours that it was not. I picked up a job working construction so that Andrew could man the one room “store” we had in our house, and after some deep consideration and long conversations Andrew and my Mom decided to take the initiative and move the shop into the much larger living room at the front of the house and the living room into the little side room that the shop was occupying. While I was at work. Because there’s nothing better than coming home from a long hard day working construction to find all your upholstered furniture upended in the hallway waiting to get squeezed into the tiny side room.
Don’t get me wrong, they made the right decision! I mean on that day it would have been nice to have a place to sit down when I got home, but in the long run we’ll give that win to Andrew too. Assist from my Mom.
So like the Very Hungry Caterpillar our business grew, and grew, and grew.
We got a business license from the municipality, but within three years we were bursting at the seams. That little side room living room? Every morning we would stuff it full of antiques that were waiting to go out on the floor, and every evening we would empty it back out so we had a place to sit and eat and relax. The shop took over the original living room, the master bedroom and the dining room and we slept in the attic upstairs. The KITCHEN was packed so full of antiques that on a GOOD day I could make dinner by squeezing sideways on my tippy toes to the stove. Most days were sandwiches made on whatever square foot of counter space I could reclaim. Suffice it to say that things were getting a bit ridiculous.
Of course we talked about moving to a commercial space, but that’s a scary jump! Even more so in this area where commercial rents usually lie somewhere on the spectrum between uncomfortable and absurd. But then it happened… the farmhouse was put up for sale. Hey, if we needed a kick in the pants to move on to the next stage of our journey, we couldn’t have gotten one firmer than that. And while the experience of living in a rental that’s on the market for sale is one that I wouldn’t care to repeat, if it weren’t for that who knows how long it would have taken us to make that jump?
After an exhaustive search and with a little help from some absolutely lovely friends (I’m looking at you, Ingrid Jarisz!), we were introduced to the Tidman’s who had a little space in Brentwood Bay that was brimming with character; a diamond in the rough. We were shocked and blessed to find in the Tidmans someone who would give us a chance. Who would look at our little budding business and see its potential rather than its current size and circumstance. Who were more interested in filling a space with a small business and helping it grow and become strong than trying to squeeze as much money out of every square foot at whatever cost.
And here we are today. We have nurtured and grown this business in this space for over six years now, so much so that two years in we literally busted out a wall and grew into that space too. Of course we’re once again bursting at the seams, but we couldn’t be doing so with a better community to support us. Because in the end it’s you that makes this business thrive, and with every kind word and every treasure that leaves here to go to a new home we are reminded of not only how far we’ve come, but how much farther we have yet to go.