It seems almost impossible that ten years ago February we began wandering the streets of downtown Victoria B.C. in search of a second location. The space we found, all 136 square feet of it, is located in the lobby of the historic Milne Building, originally built in 1891 as the Empire Hotel. Now part of Market Square, a pleasant block of buildings housing shops & restaurants, the tiny space charmed us to no end the moment we laid eyes on it. From the never ending dark wood wainscoting, to the extensive accordion doors that fold out to create a larger area, from the intricate & mesmerizing tile work, to its perfect location … it seemed almost too good to be true. Growing up in Victoria in the 80’s & 90’s, I remember this small space tucked under the stairs on a busy part of lower Johnson Street, and if memory serves me correctly it was newsstand, and so, it seemed entirely fitting that this little space would soon be full of paper once again.
We made our minds up quickly, and got to work renovating. The aesthetic of this little shop was dictated for the most part by the architectural details & delights of the space. We kept the dark wood theme in mind and scoured the city’s thrift stores & antique shops for furniture to match. We built frames to house our card shelves, installed a new ceiling & lighting… and built cabinets on wheels that rolled out into the lobby during the day, tucking back into the tiny footprint at night. We got permission for our letter writing stations to be permanent fixtures along one wall of the lobby, and we transformed a windowed doorway to nowhere into our Museum of Old Office Oddities.
This little space often confuses the passerby, having never seen anything quite like it before, and because above the doorway into the lobby boasts the address to most businesses in the entire building, it is common for people to treat it like an information booth as well as a convenient walkway into Market Square. Our long time staff are happy to oblige giving helpful directions, and sometimes, more often than you might expect, the lost humans will be transported back in time by their surroundings and feel a sudden urge to send a postcard or sit down to write a heartfelt letter.