Barb Whiteman opened The Colourbox between Homer and Cambie in 1985. In August, she celebrated her 30th year in Gastown, making her one of the neighbourhoods trailblazers.
“I wanted to be in an area that had an independent spirit, and even in the eighties, Cordova was a hip little block, full of local designers and creative entrepreneurs. It was a neighbourhood that was a good fit with who I am and what I value.”
The Colourbox has always been about valuing the connectedness of community. In fact, when she’s not in the salon, Barb can often be found mingling with her neighbours as she grabs an espresso, scouts the latest fashions or sits down for dinner with friends.
Barb was just 23 when she first opened the doors to her shop and she’s watched both her clients and her neighbourhood change through the years.
“Cordova has managed to maintain its integrity as a vibrant hood with lots of independent minded shoppers and merchants. There seems to be a shared commitment to sourcing unique high quality products and to building personal relationship with our clientele.”
Recent years have brought more residents into the neighbourhood, driving growth for businesses as newcomer’s head out in search of services – like a local salon that can provide them with a stylish cut and colour. And as Barb looks ahead to the future, it’s about meeting those needs while holding on to the things that make Gastown distinct.
“I hope this area is able to retain its unique character. There is growing recognition throughout the city that Gastown is forward thinking when it comes to cool local boutiques, cafes, bars, galleries and restaurants. It offers an experience that is anything but generic.”
Barb is extremely proud of her team, both for the work they do and the welcoming environment that they have created for their clients, because when it comes right down to it, business is personal.
“Many of my most cherished friends either work with me or sit in my chair. I often get to play a supporting role in their major milestones including weddings, graduations and birthdays.”
And now, with a week of fall behind us, everyone is starting to talk trends, including Barb.
“I think we are going to be seeing more new looks inspired by the 60s and early seventies hippies, the British mods and the underground art scene of the era. We will also look forward to lots of sculptured looks softened with textured layers, fun extreme shags and great colour to accent the cuts.”
It’s another season, the end of another year and the start of a new decade for Barb.
“I feel extremely lucky to have run a happy, successful business in a thriving neighbourhood for the past thirty years. I love turning the key each morning, throwing on the lights, greeting my staff as they wander in and scanning the appointment book in anticipation of the day ahead. I like getting to play a small part in making people feel good about themselves. It’s my life’s work and I love it.”