32+ 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 Tilley 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 Tilley 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 Tilley Hats and clothes by appointment. Nikki and Jeff cleaned out the basement and played upstairs when clients came in. Thirty 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 Street in North Vancouver.
More publicity followed, during Expo 86, when Alex introduced his latest T3 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!”