When you live in Vancouver, otherwise known as “Raincouver”, it is necessary to own an umbrella or three.
One of the most popular places in the city to get your hands on a trustworthy and sturdy portable rain shelter (read umbrella) is from the Umbrella Shop (1106 West Broadway and 526 West Pender Street).
But this third-generation business recently announced on its website that it will be retiring, and will subsequently close by the end of December. (Its Granville Island location has already shuttered for good.)
Corry Flader has been the chief executive officer of the Umbrella Shop since 2002. She is the granddaughter of the late Isadore Flader, who founded this local business in 1935.
“My grandfather originally started in Toronto, and he would go around door-to-door to fix people’s umbrellas,” Flader told the Straight in a phone interview. “He grew interested in umbrellas, and then he met a train porter who told him to move to Vancouver because it’s a place that rains every day. So he loaded all four kids and his wife on the train and they came out to Vancouver, and that was it.”
Since its inception 82 years ago, the Umbrella Shop has accumulated plenty of loyal customers who only use umbrellas from this Vancouver establishment.
“A couple of people have been writing me personal letters, and I look at them crying,” said Flader. “This one man that I’ve never met said, 'My wife and I only carry your umbrellas. What are we going to do?' ”
If you’ve walked into one of its brick-and-mortar shops, then you’ll understand that it can be a tough task to choose an umbrella. In its heyday, it sold 20 different styles of umbrellas in various colours, designs, and prints.
Some of its most popular collections are the Domestic solid-colour umbrella (designed in the 1970s and created in its Vancouver factory), and the Town (features doubled ribs and a metal shaft, which makes it durable for strong winds and heavy rainfall).
“The Umbrella Shop is a labour of love and I love the business. I work with the best umbrella makers in the world and I’m very well known for being one of the best umbrella makers in the world,” explained Flader. “I’m so fortunate to have worked with Japanese, German, Italian, [and] French colleagues, and we [would] meet in China to design together.”
She also told the Straight that the Umbrella Shop sells an average of 35,000 umbrellas a year. It also used to take on custom work such as special umbrella order, customer printing, and more.
Flader emphasized that her family-run business is doing great and that the Umbrella Shop’s imminent closure is not related to a slump in sales—it is actually because of unexpected health issues. Her children are also too young to take over a company.
“We were hoping the staff could buy it, but they just couldn’t raise the funds,” said Flader. “It’s not an easy decision to retire, but I’ve reached a point where I cannot travel or participate in the company the way I should be.”
She also acknowledged that her business doesn’t run on a very high-profit margin, but she’s extremely proud of what she does.
“It’s a bit of a well-fed decision that I can retire and not have to sell because I’m in distress,” added Flader. “That way, I’m able to honour the family and the family before me, [and] that the quality will stay where the quality should be. That was really what I wanted to do.”
The Umbrella Shop is currently in the process of liquidating all of its stock and is offering hefty discounts on its quality umbrellas. We highly suggest heading over to check out what’s left, especially since Vancouver’s rainy season is quickly approaching.
“[My customers] have made the journey worthwhile for me. I’m so overwhelmed and excited and happy to hear from people that I’ve made a difference,” said Flader. “It still mattered [to them] what I did, that I produced something that didn’t break or fall apart. There was still room for it and there could still be room in the economy for someone who does something with dignity.”
“I’m going to miss [my customers],” Flader added. “Hopefully you haven’t seen the last of me, and hopefully I’ll show up again.”
Below is the full statement posted on the Umbrella Shop’s website:
“It’s with heavy but excited hearts that we announce the official closing of the Umbrella Shop. While we have loved serving you, Vancouver, and other rainy locales across the world, it’s time to shut our doors and recharge for the next step in life: retirement!
As you know, the Umbrella Shop is a third generation family business. We have staff who have been with us for decades, shop locations that feel like home, and techniques that are time-honoured and special to us. We love, live, and breathe umbrellas, but running a thriving business—not to mention three of them—is tiring work! It’s time for the next chapter, and we’re excited for where those dreams and passions will take us.
Closing such a large business is a hefty process. As the first step, our factory has ceased operations and we are no longer taking on custom work, including umbrellas, special orders or custom printing, and our domestic line is officially out of stock. Also, because our factory has closed, we are no longer able to offer repairs to umbrellas. We are in the process of liquidating stock and stores will close by the end of December, which means there will be some great sales in store for customers, so it’s the perfect time to stock up on umbrella(s) you’ve been dying to have or give as a cherished gift.
The nice thing about producing quality umbrellas is that although it’s farewell for the Umbrella Shop, it’s also not forever and it certainly isn’t Goodbye. Our designs and love will live on in the rainy streets around the world, but it started with you, Vancouver. Thank you for joining us in our dream and making it a success. Thank you for supporting local businesses and understanding the challenges and beauty behind the finished product. Thank you for giving us the honour of sheltering you from storms, no matter how temporary.
Rain is grace;
Rain is the sky descending to the Earth;
Without rain, there would be no life.
Some people have mistaken Vancouver Umbrella (#7–12240 Horseshoe Way, Richmond) to be the same company as the Umbrella Shop, because the two independent businesses share the same roots.
However, Vancouver Umbrella’s president, Shana Hochfelder, emphasized to the Straight by phone that they are not closing down and will continue to make and sell umbrellas.
A statement on its website reads, “We at Vancouver Umbrella bid our friends at the Umbrella Shop a fond farewell. May your retirement bring you a bright future of new possibilities. Vancouver Umbrella is still open for business, [and] we manufacture and distribute rain, patio and market umbrellas.”More