Dark Horse Books (Vera and Amber)

"Psychic reading today"
I'd passed the sign on Johnson street for a thousand times but I never actually went inside.
When I finally decided to check out this long standing mystery, expecting voodoo dolls and crystal balls, I realized the store was actually a book store.
When I started a brief chat with the owners Vera and Amber, I was surprised how they were getting along so well. Seeing them talk was like watching a ping pong championship match. They must have been working together for a very long time, I thought. It made sense that they turned out to be a mother and a daughter.
Born and raised in Victoria, the native Victorians carefully bring and mix metaphysics with hip and hippie Victoria-West cost counter culture.
I found Vera and Amber value local culture a lot. One corner is full of locally crafted or printed materials.
Among hand made post cards and zines, I found locally made schedule books. They looked very fun to carry around for a year.

How the store started was nothing but making their dreams come true.
Vera and Amber always wanted to have a  metaphysical book store that is different from others in town. When they saw Dark Horse Books was for sale, they knew they found a great place to start with; because the bookstore had been always known for having a good selection of metaphysical books.

Now they have added many items over the year including over 200 decks of tarot cards.

 Also on the counter, you can see many dried plans.
"This is for smudging" Amber told me.
I had no idea what it was all about but she showed me s a book talking about smudging displayed right next to dried sage.

I felt I could let my spirituality take its journey starting from this store.
 The store also is a hub of subculture in Victoria.
You can see many posters around the store for concert. I was surprised to hear that the store full of books
turns into a concert venue. If you are a local artist looking for a place to find open minded audience, this is the place to be.

The Store 

 The store is full of mysterious things.
I found a few coats hanging on the wall in the back of the store. "They are locally made capes" Amber explained to me. Capes? And there is someone in town professionally making capes to sell? I learned something new about Victoria.

The store is full of personality and reflects unique taste of Vera and Amber.
Taking bookends for example, you find so many them in different shapes and sizes.

I strolled through book shelves. One category on the shelf says "COOL."
"These are my brother-in-law's selection" Amber said.

Even the store carries many mysterious things, the store gives very laid back, family owned feeling.
I recommend to just go check out the store. I bet you will find at least one new about Victoria.

Dark Horse Books:

Monday - Saturday:  10am - 6pm
Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm

623 Johnson Street, Victoria, BC V8W 1M5

(250) 386-8736


Baggins (Glen)

“Well...have you seen these already?”
I was shown a few pairs of Converse shoes with lines across their toes.
“This is called Jack Purcell smile,” he added.
Then a magic happened; All the sudden those shoes started smiling at me. 

He is Glen, the owner of the Converse store Baggins located in the Paper Box Arcade located on on Lo Jo or again Lower Johnson street. He’s not just selling shoes. He knows Converse at heart.

 Glen told me history and culture of Converse in detail. I thought how much I should have done a research on Converse prior to the interview but I was rather more surprised at how much Glen knows about Converse from the begging till now. 
 It was mind blowing. I can’t look at a pair of Converse in a same way ever again. I never got what all the fuss is about Converse and high cut and limited editions  and so on but the shoe company has its own history and culture. That makes Glen a historian of the Converse world.

Glen showed me a signed Converse ad
 Even the store has been in the current location for about 5 years, this hipster destination has been around for a while; probably nearly as twice as old as hipsters.
The Victoria native started the store in December 1969. The shop was not always known as “the Converse store” in town.  Who could guess this hipster destination used to be a hippie paraphernalia shop?

 The business took a downturn when it came to the end of hippie epidemic.
“We were trying to sell hippie clothing but there were no hippies left,” Glen recalls. 
And here is a store that never left behind; they started selling Converse shoes. 
 It maybe was just a coincident that one of his suppliers brought in Converse shoes around the time but it was Glen’s business sense that made the store into what it is today. “From the first pair sold, we knew we were onto something,” Glen says.

 You can see how he keeps the store up to date from how they sell shoes too. He saw the transition into the era of online shopping and quickly adapted the trend. But this time it was more of an accident how they became so successful in this. “One evening over drinks a friend of mine suggested putting our selection on the internet.” and it was done without Glen knowing about it.

 One day he came into work and found 2 orders sitting in his fax machine.
“So I thought it was pretty cool doing business in my sleep!”
Even with the great success story of the store, they know that their store was small and at competition with bigger business with great discount. That’s why they focus on specialization.
“We want to know more about the product than our competition, and we want to be able to share the stories about the shoes, and there are many!"

The successful small business owner knows how to win the competition.

“....you kind of have to blow customers away,” he added, 

“We want to be the go-to place!”


 The number of shoes in the store is overwhelming. The place resembles an old library in London where you need a sliding ladder to get what you need. The place was full of shoes from the ceiling to the floor. Or maybe this is what back of shoes stores are like. Here, you don’t have to wonder if the person said “I’ll check in the back” will come back or has already forgotten about you. There’s no “back.”

The storage area is integrated into the store. I  love the concept so much.
I grew up with big feet complex and I grow up with a weird resentment toward shoes shops. But there was something so promising about the number of shoe boxes in front of you.

As Glen said that he's aiming for specialization, I could see many limited edition Converse. At the time of my visit,  Converse Special Rock Group Edition was in and they were displayed neatly on the wall. I was amazed at the wide selection of the limited edition shoes. They have many sizes too.

 Also, even you don't have kids, don't forge to check out kids shoes section. It's just really fun just browsing through little sheep and dinosaurs thinking to yourself why your parents didn't buy you one of these pairs. 

don't forget to meet the real store owner.
 Even you see shoes are just things you just walk in, check out the store and explore the possibility of expressing your personality with footwear. I'm sure you will find something that speaks to you.

For me that was a pair of flying pig :)