Murals of smiling Sasquatch and a large bear pointing toward the entrance greet customers at Westcoastees’ new Store Street location in Victoria.
As you enter, another black bear mural on the back wall catches the eye as bright colours radiate out from a Vancouver Island outline in the animal’s centre and spread to the T-shirts and sweaters hanging from the large showroom’s walls.
The mural represents how the Island is at the heart of the art-driven, locally-crafted vision that owners Jayson Ward and Trevor and Marija Midgley have had for Westcoastees throughout its seven-year history.
“The goal of the company was to be creative right from the start,” Ward told Black Press Media.
The three artists and self-taught screen printers started out by loading up a van with garments donning their original designs and travelling to farmer’s markets and other events all over Greater Victoria and Vancouver Island.
“We just noticed people were falling more and more in love with it,” Ward said.
After opening stores in Campbell River, Duncan and Parksville, their attention turned to where they were always met by eager clientele.
“The response from Victoria, as a local company from Vancouver Island, the response was just amazing,” Ward said. “We had always imagined moving to Victoria.”
Since then, the goal has been to open a “crown-jewel” store in the south Island city. But to get there, Westcoastees knew it needed to first build a significant following.
It’s been able to do just that in recent years, which is evident with its strong social media support. The company celebrates those loyal customers at the Victoria site, showcasing a picture wall of people who have shared photos of themselves donning Westcoastees threads.
It’s because of that fanbase and audience, Ward said, that the company is now at its downtown 1807 Store St. location between Herald and Chatham streets.
“That would probably be the biggest (factor) to the success of moving to Victoria.”
Westcoastees’ graphics keep it light and current but also include detailed drawings incorporated into Vancouver Island themes of nature and wildlife.
“That might be one of the most fun things – thinking about what people would enjoy and presenting it and then seeing a positive response,” Ward said, adding that his favourite designs to make are the ones that can make people laugh.
With the downtown shop now open, Ward said they won’t be opening more locations anytime soon. Instead, they’re excited to dive back into focusing on creativity and expanding the Westcoastees product line. But for Ward, it’s still a little surreal to be standing in the Victoria store.
“It was always building towards this.”
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