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Oak Bay button business brightens up, with bows to the past

Inventory so far includes a couple dozen bows and roughly 133,000 buttons
There’s a new shine on Buttons ‘n’ Bows in Oak Bay but generations-old traditions remain. (Photo by Samantha Harvey)

Samantha Harvey’s new venture is an adventure in buttons.

A lot of buttons.

Despite the name of the business, she was stunned to discover just how many buttons filled the spaces of Buttons N Bows in Oak Bay.

In a nod to the bows, they keep a ribbon candy dish to toss the occasional bow as they continue to sort the stock since the purchase. So far there are a couple dozen bows and roughly 133,000 buttons – though that’s a rough guesstimate. There is a ton of trim – grosgrain, satin ribbon and such.

“In my mind, that’s the bow part,” Harvey said. “We will continue to offer a very similar selection of fabrics and notions and still have all the buttons – many original to the nearly 60-year-old store.”

Her career as a scientist, as well as high school and college instructor, didn’t hint at her future in the buttons and trim biz, but her hobbies do include weaving and crocheting, which could explain the only impending product addition.

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“There was once a handshake agreement with the yarn store in Estevan Village that Buttons N Bows would not carry any yarn – we will be the first owners to bring in yarn as the Estevan shop is no longer operating,” she said.

They also hope to introduce sewing and crafting classes soon.

The history of the space is important to Harvey. In the mid-1960s the space at 2867 Foul Bay Rd. was originally a coffee bar. It became Buttons N Bows in 1967. Harvey is the latest owner of the business that has only changed hands a half-dozen times. While Harvey is the lone owner currently, the plan is to shift to a partnership with Emma Jackaman and her mother Victoria.

Harvey insists it’s been a team effort since she took possession on July 28.

While the old shop boasts a new shine, at least one longstanding tradition remains.

“What we didn’t know going in is that the tradition has been that when grandmother passes and you have grandmother’s cookie tin of buttons, this store has accepted them,” Harvey said.

Harvey plans to sew customers a coffee table book of sorts – pages of interesting buttons – to go alongside the new comfy chairs in the new French provincial style of the shop. Buttons are the new stamps, she explained, and the book would give shopping partners who may be less interested something to peruse while waiting.

“There are definitely some extraordinarily unique ones,” she said. Harvey has glass buttons, old Canadian airline uniform buttons and a boatload of one-offs.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay Avenue family business marks 60 years

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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