A passion for fashion

Three decades in business for Barbara Hubbard

  • Dec. 30, 2019 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Tess Van Straaten Photographs by Don Denton

Fashionista and entrepreneur Barbara Hubbard can’t believe she’s been in business for more than three decades.

“It actually feels quite wonderful and I don’t know where the time has gone,” says the owner of Baden-Baden Boutique and Barbara’s Boutique. “It certainly doesn’t feel like 35 years, but I went in with a very positive attitude that this will be it, I’m loving it and I will have this cute little boutique — and the cute little boutique really grew!”

After raising two daughters and managing her former husband’s law firm for a decade, Barbara found herself out of work when he was appointed a judge. She says it was a pivotal moment in her life.

“I had to really think about what I wanted to do,” Barbara explains. “I took a variety of courses. I did a securities course because I thought maybe I wanted to be a financial broker, but I realized it wasn’t for me because I couldn’t see myself selling something that I can’t completely know or touch or see.”

With a passion for fashion, good connections to the German fashion scene and encouragement from friends overseas, Barbara decided to open her first store in 1984 — Baden-Baden Boutique on Fort Street — and she hasn’t looked back.

“I jumped into the clothing business with no real experience in it and I learned fast,” the 76-year-old says. “We all need to dress, we can’t run away from it, so we might as well have fun and do it well.”

After success in downtown Victoria, Barbara decided to expand the business and she opened a store on Vancouver’s South Granville Street with two partners. But she says it was probably her biggest mistake.

“It was a holy nightmare and it was just asking for chaos,” Barbara says of the partnership with a man in Europe and another in Canada. “One piece of advice would be to do what you have in mind by yourself so you’re not dependent on somebody else.”

The store closed after a couple of years and it was a tough lesson, but Barbara says she still has customers coming over from Vancouver to shop because of that store.

Learning from the setback, the next expansion was to Sidney, where Barbara opened a second Baden-Baden outlet and then purchased property on Beacon Avenue for the store.

“I was the first one in the fashion industry to come to Sidney and it’s astonishing how many people have followed me,” she says. “It’s quite a fashion promenade now.”

The expansion continued with Barbara’s Boutique and a shoe store, but the retail dynamo had to make some tough decisions a few years ago. She closed the shoe store to focus on clothing, and she also decided to shut her downtown store in order to focus on the Sidney locations.

“I decided I really wanted to make my life smaller,” she says. “I had the clothing store on Fort Street for 27 years and it was very hard to close it after so many years, but I’m grateful I did because I’m so happy to be out of downtown.”

Barbara says parking was a major issue downtown and a deterrent for many customers. She admits not everyone is happy about making the trek to Sidney, but she says parking is easy and it’s becoming a popular destination for afternoon or all-day outings.

“I say, bring out your survival gear and come out to Sidney and have a nice lunch and do your shopping on Beacon Avenue.”

Barbara says she’s learned a lot about customer service over the years and how to keep staff happy. Many have been with her a long time and she believes they’re a big part of her long-term success.

“Without a happy group of employees we would not have lasted as long,” she says. “It takes a whole group of people to do it, and my best advice is don’t make the business completely dependent on you because you’ll get burnt out and won’t be able to operate long.”

Aside from closing stores, Barbara says, she hasn’t really faced any major challenges. But when it comes to tough decisions, she has another piece of good advice.

“My theory is I don’t make decisions today,” Barbara explains.

“I always make sure I have a night to think about it before I do it and usually the next day the decision is much easier and the problem isn’t as big.”

Barbara still travels to Europe twice a year to visit showrooms and select items from the various collections for her stores. It’s a creative part of the job she loves, but it also comes with its challenges.

“The big challenge is always to choose the right merchandise for the people that you’re serving — that is the forever lasting challenge,” she says. “When I’m over in Europe and I see all these wonderful collections, I have to think, what’s right for Sidney? What’s right for the island? What’s right for the west coast? And that is always a challenge.”

But it’s a challenge this septuagenarian doesn’t plan to relinquish anytime soon.

“I intend to carry on for quite a while still,” Barbara laughs. “I have no retirement plans because I love it. Why would I give it up?”

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

FashionLifeLifestyle

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Houston mill to re-open June 8

Ends lengthy shutdown which began in March

Fibre installation for South Hazelton begins

Citywest says it will install cable in the summer and home installations in the fall

Annual bird count thrills organizer

Count took place over 48 hours

B.C. government eyes antlerless moose harvest increase in bid to save caribou

Antlerless moose hunts reduce predation for threatened mountain caribou, says ministry

Major paving projects announced

Extends west of Smithers to east of Houston

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

Most Read