Hunter & Hare (HH) is one of my favourite shops in Vancouver, Canada. Since its inception five years ago, I have not only found a way to give textiles a second life, but I’ve made close friends and elevated my wardrobe while helping to support a local business. I was lucky enough to meet Jo and Micki while working at DavidsTea in Gastown, running community events. One of our outreach programs was to offer tea for events to local businesses. HH was having their opening party and asked if they could serve some of our tea at their party.
After that first night, I became a consignor right away. I loved the concept of giving new life to garments, mainly when they are still in good condition and fashionable enough for the time (no JNCO jeans). My consignor number is actually twenty-three, it’s wild to think that I was there that early on in the process.
Since HH has opened their first location on Pender St. and Homer St, a few blocks from Gastown, they have recently opened a second location on Union St. in Chinatown. They now have consignors in the thousands and offer a beautiful assortment of quality made goods from Canada and the USA, such as homeware, jewellery, accessories, and things that generally bring happiness into your life.
There are so many things that make HH an incredible story, but it really boils down to the two lovely ladies at the helm of this business, Jo & Micki. They are hard-working, thoughtful, kick-ass female entrepreneurs that have proven their business prowess and agility to navigate an often fickle market in Vancouver. As more and more people shift their actions around issues like sustainability, fair labour, fast fashion, and waste; Hunter & Hare is uniquely positioned to find a place for the old and new. Having seen them grow as an outsider for some time, it’s an incredible feat to run a successful business, let alone a second location. They are both humble, funny and full of life, and this permeates into the staff they hire and the collaborators they work with.
On this journey to hone in on local experiences and to tell stories about cities and their culture I thought profiling local businesses would be a great way to showcase the things I love about a city (or place) and the people behind them. Chances are if you like this business they are going to have some recommendations that you may love as well. So, I have compiled the highlights of our interviews together to talk about the business while also digging into the things that draw them to this city and what keeps them here. Enjoy!
What do you love about Vancouver?
Micki: All of the independent neighbourhoods, which cater to different styles, moods, and character. For example, Kits has markets and coffee shops, Mount Pleasant has lots of thrift shopping and independent boutiques, East Van is an eclectic mix, downtown is cute and charming – with cobblestone streets in Gastown- it’s where you go out on the town. If you want to get out of the city, you can go hiking in thirty minutes in North Vancouver.
“All of the independent neighbourhoods, which cater to different styles, moods, and character.”Micki – On why she loves Vancouver.
Jo: Honestly, the scenery. It consistently impresses me, even though I have lived here so long. I love being able to see the mountains from different parts of the city, whether I am jogging, driving, or walking. I feel fortunate to be around such beauty. I love how the city has a cozy feel to it when it’s rainy. Vancouver has a hometown vibe, it feels small, yet everyone is connected to everyone. People love the outdoors, so they spend as much of their time there as possible outside. As a result, it can be a sleepy city compared to more cosmopolitan cities like London or New York. One thing I don’t like is how casual the style is. For example, I’ll go to a black tie event, and you’ll see skinny black jeans. It doesn’t really have the same meaning.
What is your favourite neighbourhood?
Micki: Chinatown, specifically Union St., which is very community oriented. I can walk down the street and see people I know, I love the community vibe. For example, one of my favourite cafes is Dalina, and they know my dog Haida and me by name. There are also so many gems in this neighbourhood, I love Soap (which is Hunnybee Bruncheonette by day), and Boxcar.
Jo: Mount Pleasant. It is so close to everything, it has a great selection of coffee shops, restaurants, and shops. It is also a very walkable neighbourhood. I love coffee shop culture no matter what city I’m in. In Vancouver my favourite cafes span many localities, Nelson the Seagull, in Gastown, Liberty Cafe, in Mount Pleasant, Nemesis, in Gastown near our Pender location, and of course Hunnybee and Matchstick (near our Union location).
What is your favourite season in Vancouver?
Micki: Fall is my favourite season, even though I love summer. I could do a month of summer, but after that, it gets to be too much because it makes me feel like I have to be outside all the time. However, when it’s rainy, you can be inside and be productive and not feel guilty for being inside. Fall is also a more extended season, which means lots of layering. At the shop, we get tonnes of layering pieces such as knit sweaters, fleeces, plaids, and scarves. The vibe in the city is a little more mellow, there aren’t as many tourists, so you can go on a bike ride and not have to fight people on the sea wall.
“The vibe in the city is a little more mellow, there aren’t as many tourists, so you can go on a bike ride and not have to fight people on the sea wall.”Micki – On why fall is the best season in Vancouver
Jo: Spring is my favourite season, my happiness level skyrockets, and I love seeing the flowers in bloom. Everyone complains about the rain in Vancouver, but the moment the sun comes out, the flowers are in bloom, and the grass is green, it’s a sight!
If you could give one piece of advice to visitors to Vancouver, what would it be?
Jo: For travel hacks, I search for consignment stores in a place I am visiting as a starting point and then I see what else is around it. Social media is such an excellent tool to see what locals like and what is trending in a particular place. It is a departure point to get the lay of the land; once you have a few spots that interest you, go there and chat with the people who work there. They will tell you where to go and what to see.
“Social media is such an excellent tool to see what locals like and what is trending in a particular place. “Jo- On travel hacks for a more local experience.
Jo: For travel hacks, I search for consignment stores in a place I am visiting as a starting point and then I see what else is around it. Social media is such an excellent tool to see what locals like and what is trending in a particular place. It is a departure point to get the lay of the land, once you have a few spots that interest you go there and chat with the people who work there. They will tell you where to go and what to see.
If you stop by a HH shop, we have a travel bucket list we can share with you. A couple of other worthwhile spots to visit are Banyen Books & Sound, it is such a treat to visit, and there is a consignment store across the street; it’s a little way from downtown, but it gets you into a super local part of the Kitsilano neighbourhood. Lastly, the Flower Factory in Mount Pleasant, if you are staying for a little while, you could get flowers for the place you are staying in to spruce it up.
For people visiting Vancouver, what is the best thing to take back as a souvenir from your Vancouver?
Micki: It’s very personal, but generally jewellery. I love things made locally by hand. The East Side Flea Market has a great selection of local handmade goods that would be ideal souvenirs. I also love popping into little boutiques to see how they have curated their shop and asking about local designers and artisans. Also, I tend to buy useful things or something I’ll wear, it reminds me of that place. If you are spending a lot of time outdoors, you could collect some ferns or flowers and press them in a book to take home. You could turn the pressed vegetation into a print when you return home.
“I also love popping into little boutiques to see how they have curated their shop and asking about local designers and artisans.”Micki – On finding the best souvenirs when travelling.
Jo: Products made by local artists, or graphic designers, if you can get your hands on a local print, you can get it framed, and it will remind of your trip. Or, a ceramic mug designed and made locally and sold at a local coffee shop. We are so lucky because we have so much amazing local talent here in Vancouver. One of my favourite artists is Jen Klukas, she creates illustrations and does embroidered tees. At Hunter & Hare, we also try to carry local artists, which give visitors the chance to take home something hyper-local.
Food Culture in Vancouver
We all love food, it’s not only sustenance, eating is a thing to be enjoyed and to find comfort in. And when we travel, it’s something that helps us connect with that culture. However, sometimes it can be overwhelming to identify the best places to eat in so little time. Here’s what the gals at HH had to say about food culture in Vancouver.
When you go out to eat, where are your favourite places to go to?
Micki: In Mount Pleasant, it’s Sing Sing. They have excellent vegan pizza, while Pizzeria Barbarella has the best pizza, but the decor and atmosphere are not the greatest for a sit-down. The recolated Black Lodge is a great vegetarian option in the Mount Pleasant area. Alibi Room, in Gastown, has a wicked selection of local beers and ciders. On South Main St. and South Granville there is a delicious hole-in-thewall diner called Slickity Jim’s. If you’re looking for delicious authentic Vietnamese food head over to Anh and Chi on South Main.
What’s the cocktail, wine, and beer scene like in Vancouver? What do you prefer?
Micki: For cocktails, the Emerald has a great cocktail selection, and on Tuesdays, they are half price. In my opinion, they have the best Old Fashioned in the city. For cheap beer ($3.50 a pint) and a chill time hit up the Legion on Commercial Drive. You can play pool and darts with old mom and pops, or if you feel like a younger crowd, there are enough hipsters to go around. People are friendly, but groups stay relatively separate. I also really love, Cosmic Bowling next door, if you are feeling so inclined. Looking for fresh air and sun? Hit up the patio at The Lido, it’s a neighbourhood pub with an eclectic vibe and live music. Dandelion Records is also based out of it. Be warned it’s cash only.
“For local brews, head over to Brassneck Brewery for excellent ambiance, be ready to brave a line as this place can be quite busy.”Micki – On the best spots for craft beer.
For local brews, head over to Brassneck Brewery for excellent ambiance, be ready to brave a line as this place can be quite busy. The best beer on the list? The Passive Aggressive Pale Ale, but they also have a wicked selection of rotating taps, so try one of these for an in the moment beer. Get a flight to give your taste buds a chance to taste them all. 33 Acres is also another great local brewery. The aesthetic is straight forward and modern, but with a chill vibe. For something light and refreshing in the summer, try the Sunshine wheat beer. In the colder months, try Darkness for a heavier black lager. Another beer hot spot is Luppolo brewing, they really have a fantastic beer. Try the Pear Saison aged in an old whiskey barrel it’s to die for.
“Commercial Drive has a fantastic food scene and cultural vibe. It is very eclectic, offering an international smorgasbord from Italian, Ethiopian, Mexican, Greek, Spanish, Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, and the list goes on.”Jo – On the best eats in the city.
Jo: Olympic Village and Mount Pleasant have so many tasty spots, local breweries such as R&B Brewing, Faculty Brewing, and Electric Bicycle. Along with delicious coffee from Elysian Coffee. They all have a Vancouver vibe, in my opinion. Commercial Drive has a fantastic food scene and cultural vibe. It is very eclectic, offering an international smorgasbord from Italian, Ethiopian, Mexican, Greek, Spanish, Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, and the list goes on.
If you were going on a date, where would you go and what would you do?
Micki: For a chill summer date, I would do a walking tour of the breweries and grab some growlers to go. Bring the dog along for the ride and then head over to Trout Park with a blanket and enjoy the lake and chill out. Then hit up Bandidas Taqueria on Commercial Drive for dinner, super tasty food and walking distance from Trout Lake. Once I’m feeling sufficiently tipsy, head over to the Legion to play darts.
“I would do a walking tour of the breweries and grab some growlers to go. Bring the dog along for the ride and then head over to Trout Park with a blanket and enjoy the lake and chill out.”Micki – On the best low-key date in Vancouver.
For a fancy date, I would go to Pepinos on Commercial Drive. They have amazing Italian food, any of their pasta will make your mouth water. Afterwards, head over to the Rio Theatre to catch a late night flick than a stroll down Commercial Drive to end the night.
Jo: Take me to Nightingale, and you’ll get my attention.
Hunter & Hare
How did you come up with the idea to start a consignment store?
Micki: At eighteen years old, I worked at a consignment store in Calgary for four and a half years. These were the formative years, where I learned about the power of consignment, and the ability to divert waste from going back into the world. I came to Vancouver for school, after I graduated I had planned to go back to Calgary to franchise the consignment store I had been previously working at; but I fell in love with Vancouver, and I met Jo.
Our friendship blossomed into a true partnership, whereby we began devising plans to start our own shop. The idea of the consignment wasn’t the initial plan, but as we refined our business plan, we realized it was an inherent part of who we were, and we focused on this concept. We also wanted to create a place to showcase local, high-quality, handcrafted goods that customers would appreciate in their day-to-day lives.
“The idea of the consignment wasn’t the initial plan, but as we refined our business plan, we realized it was an inherent part of who we were, and we focused on this concept.”Micki – On starting their business.
Jo: I had previously worked retail, and over time, you accumulate a lot of extra clothes. As a way to give these items a second life, I set-up a shop night at my house called “Shop Jo’s Closet.” I have always loved clothes, and I was still buying new things then not wearing them because I had so much to choose from. It was incredible how much I would sell on these shop nights; these shop nights definitely inspired me to want to run my own shop.
“We are more concerned with previously loved items that are less impactful on the environment.“Jo – On building the Hunter & Hare brand.
When I met Micki in Vancouver, it became clear that our lives were very similar; we both loved fashion, but we weren’t slaves to it, and we actually went thrift shopping a lot. So, when we were evaluating our business plan for Hunter & Hare, we realized a new clothing shop wasn’t the right fit because it wasn’t how we shopped in our lives. So, why would we promote an industry that we don’t believe in? We shop for the things that suit our lives, lifestyles, body types, and are fashionable; but less driven by what’s new and hot. We are more concerned with previously loved items that are less impactful on the environment.
“We really try to be inclusive to all body types; assisting customers in finding items that suit their bodies, their skin tone, and style while avoiding having to fit into the cookie cutter way of dressing.”Jo – On making consignement work for all body types and styles.
From a business perspective, there is a lot of risks to carry extensive inventories every season. With consignment, we have greater control over our stock, we can bring in the community, help divert textile waste from landfills, and get away from fast fashion. We really try to be inclusive to all body types; assisting customers in finding items that suit their bodies, their skin tone, and style while avoiding having to fit into the cookie cutter way of dressing. As a result, consignors that purchase from us are more selective about the pieces they take home from HH because they bring items to consign.
“You can find a fantastic designer handbag, originally priced at $500 for a fraction of the price, which is a steal and will last for the next five years because it is a classic piece.”Jo – On how to be a savvy thrift shopper.
Customers also shop for their lifestyle, they can buy a cute vintage top, and then pair it with locally made hand hammered earrings. You can find a fantastic designer handbag, originally priced at $500 for a fraction of the price, which is a steal and will last for the next five years because it is a classic piece. You shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money on fashion and quality pieces.
You also sell a variety of other handmade goods, how do you choose the products you carry?
Micki: When it comes to choosing products for the store, we ask ourselves: Do we want to buy it ourselves? If we wouldn’t want to buy it, we don’t want to bring it into the shop. We also want to know how a product is made? Is it locally made, does it have a story, and is it a good enough product to have in the shop?
We love to support local Vancouver products, however, sometimes some products are saturated within the market. We want to offer unique pieces from new and upcoming vendors. Recently we have refocused our energy on Canadian made products, as much as possible. Over the last few years, we have noticed more entrepreneurs and more makers in smaller cities across Canada such as Calgary, Winnipeg, and Halifax. So, we want to support these entrepreneurs when we can.
Over the last few years, we have noticed more entrepreneurs and more makers in smaller cities across Canada such as Calgary, Winnipeg, and Halifax. So, we want to support these entrepreneurs when we can.Micki – On supporting Canadian-made quality goods.
What do you think have been your biggest successes?
Micki: From a business perspective, consignors that have been around since the beginning. 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. We have so many recurring customers who love our company and spread their love by word of mouth. It is incredible for us to see, and it really hits home that people are so excited and invested in the company and want to tell others about what we have built.
Of course, our team is incredible. We have all women working in the shop. It is empowering to have such amazing, creative, and independent ladies around, who are all so unique and special. It can be hard to find people to work for you or to keep people, so we feel like we have a reliable team who run the day-to-day operations, helping to grow business and enable us to focus on the big picture ideas.
Why did you choose Vancouver as the place to open your shops?
Micki: I just love the city and Jo was here. I also had no plans on moving back to Alberta, so it seemed like a natural fit.
Jo: Vancouver is the perfect place, this city values community. Through our business, we engage with our community by donating to local charities. As a consignor, you have the choice to have your items returned or to have them donated to organizations in need. We also give dollars directly to select organizations. We are lucky to partner up with a local college, where we collaborate with up-and-coming students who can bring fresh ideas to our merchandising, which allows students to showcase their design skills, particularly our window displays. We also stock beautifully curated local goods, which create avenues for artists and designers to showcase their work and enable them to profit from their hard work.
“Our shop enables people to showcase their style and personality without breaking the bank.”Jo – On opening Hunter & Hare in Vancouver.
Vancouver is the city that we can do the things we love. Vancourites love to a thrift shop, which is crucial to our business. There is an influential artist and makers presence in the city. However, Vancouver can also be an expensive place to live in. So for many people who want to express themselves through fashion, it can be prohibitive when they also have to juggle rent, food, parking, etc. Our shop enables people to showcase their style and personality without breaking the bank.
Does the city influence your shop or operations? If so, how and why?
Micki: The cities high rent market definitely influences our shop and operations. It’s hard to find the perfect balance in this city for location, size, and decent rent. The housing market is slowly coming down, but sadly, the renting and leasing market isn’t. As a result, we have considered our third location to be in places like North Vancouver, Victoria, or maybe even another province.
Jo: Vancourites are lovely, but we are weather driven. The first sunny day will be the slowest, but the second and third day will be packed. The first rainy, dreary day will be quiet, but as people get used to it, we get back to being busy. Spring and fall are our busiest seasons because the additional lifestyle items allow customers to shop laterally for the other essential pieces they may need in their lives.