“What if it was a glass gallery?”
“Just a glass gallery?”
“Well what if we had all kinds of glass, beautiful handmade glass, but glass people can use, things with purpose so they’ll actually use them – like bowls and vases and bongs and pipes, and we could have a small headshop too? But not like a creepy headshop, like the kind of place where you could come in and buy a vase and not be bothered that we sold pipes, and the kind of place where if you were coming in to buy a pipe, it wouldn’t be like any other place you’d bought a pipe before? And we could have a bit of other smoking accessories, because somebody always needs rolling papers.”
Standing in the middle of the dark, cavernous room on the second floor of 349 Spokane in Kimberley, BC, this seemed to be the weirdest idea yet. This gloomy space was, at one point, part of a bistro downstairs. There was still remnants of this life – a waiter’s stand, booth seating, tables scattered about – but it no longer served that purpose. It was a beautiful room, flanked by giant windows at either ends – you could tell it had potential, but that potential was hidden under dark walls and yellow ceilings.
It was hard to visualize at first. Despite the windows and an exit, it was also still open to the restaurant below, a giant open stairwell echoing the sounds from below. It really only served to add to the cavernous feel. Also, we weren’t even sure if sealing it off was possible. We weren’t really sure if ANY part of this idea was possible, even the very notion of this gallery itself.
I talked to a number of glass artists when concocting the idea – no one had heard of such a place anywhere else. There were glass galleries, and places that sold high end handmade bongs and rigs, but nowhere seemed to have the things for smoking mixed in with the things for not smoking. And then I had one conversation, with one glass artist whose opinion I highly respect; she listened intently, and when I was done giving her my elevator pitch she just nodded slowly, and said “Please, please do this.”
And that may have been the last push we needed.
As it turned out, because 349 Spokane is in Kimberley, and because Kimberley, BC might be one of the few places where crazy ideas are encouraged, the answer to most questions around ‘could we’ were yes. As long as things were done properly and to building code, it seemed like most people didn’t care what we did with this space. The fact we were a second floor retail location in a town of predominantly ground floor businesses? Not an issue. The fact people would have to enter from a stairwell off the side of the building? That’s fine, just a few repairs to get it to code. The fact we wanted to sell all different kinds of glass? No problem.
And thus Mountain Grass was born.
Nothing can grow from infancy without some sort of support, and we lucked out and found some of the best available! Our graphic designer, Tony Nguyen, was a godsend – from our logo and signage designs to doing hundreds of mock-ups and renders (that’s not really an exaggeration either!), honestly, I cannot say enough good things about him. I must also give accolades to Free Time Manufacturing – we would literally still be standing in our garage in Calgary without this one; you may think you don’t need support to organize yourself, but after using her I’m not sure I could go back – if you are in Calgary you MUST check her out! We found an amazing local contractor (Sheldon Ferguson, of Wood and Anvil in Kimberley), who helped us come up with the best ways of moving forward, and helped us find additional amazing people (J&J Painting & Finishing, and I cannot recommend them enough!). With the help of all these people, the dark walls became light, a stairwell became a counter, an exit became an entrance, an entire store map was taped on the floors and walls. Restaurant furniture moved out, and gallery furniture moved in. A bright orange building became a yellow one. Signs went up, and what once was empty filled with glass, beautiful handmade glass from all over Canada.
Ultimately, our goal was to create something unlike any other space that existed. And through what seemed like a million delays, and despite all the nights where it seemed like it would never happen, we finally have created a space that is as unique as the work inside it.
What has been interesting to learn since we have opened is that this space’s previous life is clearly remembered by people. More than one customer has come in and looked around and told us where they used to sit when it was a bistro and they would come in for dinner. More than one remembers where their favorite table was, and how much they enjoyed it when it was a restaurant.
We have also found that more than one customer has seen what we saw too – they see the potential for a space like this, and when they walk in they understand what we are trying to do. They also understand, as we do, that very unique ideas require very unique spaces – and here is where we feel we have succeeded the most; from our beautiful Kimberley location to the ever changing landscape inside the store, altered by the dynamics of the glass that enters, we have accomplished our goal of creating a space as unique as our idea.