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Whistler BizBeat: The Velvet Underground Shop

Pique’s new series profiling local businesses and their employees who go above and beyond; first up is the beloved, Whistler Village pre-loved fashion store
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The Velvet Underground owner Amy Rafferty.

Welcome to BizBeat, Pique’s newest web series profiling Whistler businesses and their employees who go above and beyond.

Each week, we will profile another resort employer and one of their staff, who have each agreed to answer the same questionnaire that has been sent to businesses and employees across the community.

First up is The Velvet Underground Shop, the popular Whistler Village vintage store that specializes in ethical and sustainable pre-loved fashion. Hear from owner Amy Rafferty before we publish a profile tomorrow of star Velvet Underground employee, Bronte Simon.

The following interview has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

Pique: Describe your business and the products/services it provides, as well as when it launched.

Amy Rafferty: Velvet Underground is a community of people driven to inspire positive change and a more sustainable future through the art of pre-loved fashion. We purchase hundreds of pounds of second-hand clothes that were destined for landfills every week.

Finding these items is no easy feat, though. We go down to the city and scour rag houses, thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets and more to find all sorts of nostalgia, current trends, rare gems and anything else people would otherwise be buying new. Our motto is “Everything you want already exists” and we’re here to help you find it!

The store was founded in 2018 down in Function Junction where we originally had a vegan café as well, because sustainability is more than just shopping second-hand to us; it’s a lifestyle that we live and breathe!

After COVID, we decided we needed to relocate to a busier location so that we could scale our impact and influence, and moved to the village in March 2022. Although we unfortunately couldn’t bring the café with us, we couldn’t be happier with our decision. The store is busier than ever and growing and I’m sure we’ll find a way to reintegrate our café in the future!

What do you like the most about doing business in Whistler?

I love that we have the opportunity to reach a global audience! With Whistler being a tourist destination and full of locals from all over the world, the potential to scale our message and business globally is very real.

What do you like the least about doing business in Whistler? 

Slow season, and lack of affordable housing for locals.

The housing makes it really hard to find and keep great staff, and the slow season is a challenge

Financially. But, also, I know that if we can run a successful business here, we can do it anywhere, so I’m embracing it knowing that, through these challenges, we have the opportunity to build a super resilient and strong business.

If you were mayor for a day, what single policy would you implement in Whistler to best support local businesses?

That is a really hard question… There are so many things I would do! However, No. 1 would have to be focussing on creating affordable staff housing at scale—and ASAP! Without that, nothing else matters because it’s the workforce that keeps this town alive.

What’s a memorable moment or customer from your time doing business in Whistler?

There are so many moments! Like when we tell people about the second-hand clothing industry and just how many clothes are getting thrown away every year, where it all ends up, what fast fashion is and the impact it has on the planet and the people in the supply chain.

It never gets old seeing people’s jaws drop when they find this out and seeing them empowered to make conscious decisions and becoming so stoked on shopping second-hand and finding their own style. I know it’s not really “one” moment, but this happens all day, everyday, and it’s what I live for!

Learn more at shopvelvetunderground.com.

Got a business or employee you'd like us to profile? Email reporter Brandon Barrett at bbarrett@piquenewsmagazine.com.