Caught unexpectedly during a rainstorm on Granville Island in Vancouver, we duck into into a small shop with the most cheerful staff and colorful umbrellas. The atmosphere inside is in direct contrast to the gloomy mood outside its doors. We purchased a beautiful yellow cotton umbrella that day and after three years of use, it remains one of our staples to brave the weather in New York.
The Umbrella Shop brand attributes its beginnings to the hard work and dedication of Isadore Flader, the grandfather of the current owner Corry Flader.
“My Grandfather, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, moved with his family to Toronto around 1910. He grew up there, met and married Ida, and fixed umbrellas door to door to make a living,” explains Corry. “One day he met a train porter who told him of the rainforest surrounding Vancouver and that was that. He packed up his wife and four small children and left for promise of rain in Vancouver.”
For nearly a century, the brand has remained focused on developing customer relationships. Each cotton umbrella is crafted with such love and care, so as to exude that personal touch. The Umbrella Shop is also one of the few companies that still offer guarantees and free repairs on all their products. We chat with Corry and visit their two-floor studio in Vancouver to get the inside scoop on how they became such a mainstay in the rainiest city in Canada.
What makes you so passionate about umbrellas?
CF: Umbrellas are such beautiful functional accessories. With various shapes, fabrics and uses. Not only do they keep you dry, but nothing is more uplifting on a grey rainy day than a bright and cheerful umbrella. It’s easy to love something that not only lifts up your mood but all the people around you.
What are three words to describe your umbrellas?
CF: Practical, durable, and beautiful.
What differentiates your umbrellas from others?
CF: I think the main thing that separates us from everyone else is that umbrellas are all we do. Therefore we know more about them and are able to create the best umbrellas around and we stand behind them. We take great pride in our umbrellas and try to create the strongest ones we can, that being said, nothing is unbreakable, but we are there to fix the umbrellas should something happen to them.
How has the brand become such a mainstay in Vancouver?
CF: We are well known throughout the community for our charity work and fundraising. As we are very much a word of mouth business, once you have one of our umbrellas you’ll love it so much that you’ll tell your friends. People keep coming back because of the quality of the umbrellas and the customer service we provide.
“…nothing is more uplifting on a grey rainy day than a bright and cheerful umbrella. It’s easy to love something that not only lifts up your mood but all the people around you.” – Corry Flader
Who designs the umbrellas and prints? What are the outside influences that inform the design?
CF: We take into account current fashion trends, but primarily we listen to our customers. We use that information along with our expertise to create truly remarkable umbrellas. It’s a time consuming group effort but when designing new lines and making fabric choices, that’s the way it should be.
And, how many people are involved in the manufacturing process?
CF: Our local manufacturing process usually is made up of 2-3 people. Our factory manager orders the fabric, cuts it, and helps in the assembly of the cover to the frame using various machines. We also have a wonderful seamstress who does all the hemming and panel assembly.
On a lighter note, coming from the rainiest city in North America, what is your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
CF: I love to go on a nice long walk through the forest by UBC. It’s nice to remember that without all this rain we get, we wouldn’t have the gorgeous greenery that Vancouver is so well known for.
Are you superstitious? How does it feel to open an umbrella indoors every day?
CF: Totally not! Opening an umbrella indoors is a completely natural feeling. I have been doing it most my life. And as we say at The Umbrella Shop “ you can’t make an umbrella without opening it and we’re not making them outside”.
And, do you have a favorite rainy day song?
CF: “Singing in the rain” When its pouring rain and super busy in the stores I always have that song as my internal soundtrack.