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Art store moving to Squamish

Changing demographics, moving customers behind Lotus’s position

Whether you were a serious artist looking for supplies or just someone looking for an arts and crafts project to do on a rainy day, Lotus was the place to go in Whistler.

Since 1998, out of a space smaller than most living rooms, Lotus Art Supplies sold paint, paper, brushes, wool, beads, stones, files, woodcarving kits, handmade cards, books — everything needed to inspire and supply your arts and crafts.

Now Lotus has announced that they will be closing their Whistler store in September, and moving down the highway to Squamish. According to owner and manager Marc Drost, the business climate has changed in Whistler and, at the end of the day, he’s just following customers that have also moved down the corridor.

“We’ve been lucky here, we’ve had super landlords that really appreciate local businesses who have tried to help us as much as possible, but the move is largely because of market changes,” said Drost. “We have different types of people coming here, a lot from Vancouver, which is not the best for us because they’re here for shorter stays.”

Shorter stays mean fewer arts and crafts projects for families, Drost says. Ironically, good weather doesn’t help much either.

Overall Drost says business has been declining since about 2003, when Americans were still taking advantage of a favourable exchange rate to visit Whistler. He says he sees fewer Americans these days, and the ones that do come into his store are more careful with their money.

“It’s been a little more difficult. There’s more to do, there’s more retail, more recreation. I would say an art store is kind of bottom of the spending list — art supplies are not a priority for most visitors.”

As well, he says a lot of his regular customers have moved to Squamish or Pemberton, although most still work in Whistler.

“We’re getting less of the young locals that kept us going,” said Drost. “The type of business we’re in, art materials and craft materials, you usually find in large markets like Vancouver but not in small communities. You need a large base of customers because there are not large margins in this type of business, and when that base shrinks even a little you notice it.”

The new store will be connected to the Northern Lights Gallery on Cleveland Avenue, which Drost will co-manage with his partner Robin Duriak. They have already spoken to most of the professional local artists in Whistler that they count among their regular customers, and many will continue to buy supplies from Lotus at their new location.

As for Lotus’s north village location, The Oracle new age store from Nesters Mall will be taking over the space.

“The landlords wanted a business like that, they were always looking for a small business that was a little bit different and adds something to the village experience,” said Drost.