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Clothier Smoking Lily moving for adventure at mall

After 20 years tucked into Lower Johnson Street and establishing itself as a force well beyond the 44 square feet of real estate it inhabited, Smoking Lily is closing shop in favour of a new location in the Bay Centre.
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Trish Tacoma at her downtown clothing store, Smoking Lily. The little retailer on LoJo is moving after 20 years.

After 20 years tucked into Lower Johnson Street and establishing itself as a force well beyond the 44 square feet of real estate it inhabited, Smoking Lily is closing shop in favour of a new location in the Bay Centre.

Smoking Lily, in partnership with Tonic Jewelry, is opening the Pop Up Collaborative in early June for an eight-month residency in the downtown mall. “I’ve worked in retail for 30 years and have never worked in a mall,” said Smoking Lily owner Trish Tacoma, who concedes closing the Johnson Street store is bittersweet. “I am surprised because I have been working on this for a while and it is a really good business move, but I’m fighting the emotions,” she said, adding she burst into tears while talking with a customer this week.

Tacoma started her business in the street markets at Bastion Square in 1996, and moved to the Johnson Street space that fall.

She has since opened The Milkman’s Daughter at 1713 Government St. in Victoria and a Smoking Lily store on Main Street in Vancouver, selling locally sourced clothing and accessories. Both those stores and Smoking Lily’s online presence remain.

“It has been an awesome ride,” said Tacoma, who sees the move to the mall as a chance to send a message. “It’s an opportunity for me to [tell people] that you can buy really good clothing, locally made. It doesn’t have to come from China. There is awesome stuff right here and that we can be in a mall side by side.”

The space Tonic and Smoking Lily will move into is 2,000 square feet, with the two firms more or less splitting it.

They are currently going through leasehold improvements and intend to establish work stations so customers can watch designers and artists create jewelry and clothing.

Honor Cienska, owner of Tonic, which is based in an 800-square- foot store in Market Square, said she didn’t have any intention of opening a second shop, but saw an opportunity for “a one-of-a-kind makerspace kind of place.”

Cienska said she chose Smoking Lily because she aligns with Tacoma’s ideology and desire to keep things as local as possible. “I thought we could rock the space and have some fun,” she said.

Cienska, who has made a name for herself and Tonic by creating unique, locally sourced and handcrafted jewelry and accessories, said her Market Square store will remain.

The last day for Smoking Lily on LoJo is Saturday.

After that a former Smoking Lily employee, Ellen Box, will take over the space with a line of handmade bags — the Bonspiel Creation.

“Knowing who was going to go in there was a big thing for me,” said Tacoma. “She will do an amazing job at it.”