34+ years ago, give or take a day

In the Spring of 1985, Barbara had quit her job as broker’s assistant in the stock market and was at loose ends;  Jeff was 7, Nikki was 9;  John was part time in computer consulting, and selling Hats at some West Coast boat shows.

My brother, Alex Tilley, had opened a retail store a year earlier, and suggested to Barbara that if she would open one too, he would provide inventory on consignment.  His home basement was the first business location, his neighbour’s basement for mail order was the second, our basement would be the third.  Three basements, the Canadian Dream come true!

Our rec-room was finished by stapling aluminum foil over the bare ceiling joists, PVC pipe made simple shelf supports, boat-show cloth covered the plywood shelves, boat-show photos and signs finished the job.  We did not apply for a business license….

We ran small ads in the North Shore News, offering Hats and clothes by appointment.  Nikki and Jeff cleaned out the basement and played upstairs when clients came in.  Thirty plus years later, we still meet people who first became clients at our home basement store.

Virginia Leeming wrote about us for the Vancouver Sun, and gave our home phone number in her article, which gave us a real boost.  The response to her article gave us the confidence to look for a proper store location.

That fall, using our computer business for licensing purposes, we opened a retail store on Pemberton Avenue in North Vancouver.

More publicity followed, during Expo 86, when Alex introduced his latest Hat, which was chosen to be presented to VIP guests by the Ontario pavilion.

Then Ed Keats, who hosted a local affairs show on Shaw TV, wandered in one day, was intrigued, and asked John “would you like to be on TV?”  I replied “No, but Barbara would!”

Tilley Vancouver first store

Barbara, Alex and John Tilley at the opening of our first store in September 1985.

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6 responses to “34+ years ago, give or take a day”

  1. Jim says:

    This is a very inspiring story that will encourage other entrareneurs that are contemplating starting a Business to take their first step.
    I’m a fairly recent Client and can verify the quality and comfort is built into the clothing. Perfect for traveling and quick to dry. Great to have you folks in the Neighbourhood.

    • Nikki Tilley says:

      Thank you so much Jim, it is exciting for our family and our team to be back on this side of the water! Being an entrepreneur can be a little scary at times, but we love what we do.
      Nikki Tilley

  2. Greg Woodward says:

    I was one of your first customers at your North Vancouver store where I purchased my first Tilley hat. Since that time between my wife and I we have purchased 8 hats between us (one of which you replaced). Since that first hat we have purchased a variety of clothing including but not limited to vests,Tilley bags shorts and numerous socks. Proof of this is in the photo on the wall in your Vancouver store taken of us on the Camino Santiago De Compostela.
    Keep producing the excellent products.
    When will there be a Tilley kilt?

    Cheers, Greg & Maureen Woodward

    • Nikki Tilley says:

      Thank you Greg and Maureen for your support! I have very fond memories of our store in North Vancouver, my brother and I used to play behind the clothing racks when mom and dad were not looking – now my kids do that.

      We will pass on the kilt request to the Tilley team in Toronto.
      Nikki Tilley

  3. Barry and Fran says:

    We remember when we went to your house in North Van where you sold your hats and other Tilley clothing items out of your basement. I guess that must have been 1985.

    • Nikki Tilley says:

      Hi Barry and Fran, it would have been between May and September 1985, we then opened on Pemberton late September that year.

      Thank you for being such long term supporters!


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