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

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

Just Posted

Grand Forks community centre open house set for Jan. 23 at the aquatic centre

Designers and the development committee will be at the aquatic centre from 4 to 7 p.m. on Jan. 23

OPINION: Reflecting on a Greaser’s last words

What it means to stay gold and to look for the gold in others

Border Bruins fall after roller-coaster week

Border Bruins beat the Nelson Leafs on Jan. 14 in overtime, then fell 10-4 to them on Sunday

Ktunaxa, supporters celebrate protection of Qat’muk and the Jumbo valley

Speeches, acknowledgements and ceremonies mark an emotional gathering in Cranbrook

Hwy 3 to close for avalanche control on Jan. 19

The road is expected to be closed from noon to 3 p.m.

Canadian law firm launches class action on behalf of Iran flight victims

Flight 752 was shot down by Iran shortly after take off

Mission Hill cellarman fired after mistakenly dumping $162K of wine down the drain

The former employee filed a grievance with the West Kelowna winery but was unsuccesful

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

WATCH: Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

‘Epic sky palace’: B.C. businesses help create dream treehouse for boy recovering from cancer

‘It was kind of a bright shining beacon at the end of a horrible, dark tunnel’

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Most Read