When Jennifer Chaplick and her husband Morey Chaplick moved to North Vancouver from Toronto in 2015, the fashionable couple noticed a lack of sartorial options.
Many of the brands that were easily available on the East Coast were not sold here. So they decided to bring the clothing to the North Shore with the opening of a high-end womenswear store called Ami Boutique on the Dundarave strip.
The couple chose the location for its beachy vibe. “We looked at Ambleside and we looked at Dundarave and Dundarave has that kind of California vibe. It’s very relaxed, there’s some very good restaurants. There’s a grocery store, there’s a couple of wine stores … It’s a neighbourhood and we wanted this to be a neighbourhood store,” says Morey.
The sprawling space has a minimalist décor esthetic, and the store shelves are lined with carefully curated clothing items, jewelry, and home accessories representing about 50 brands.
A lifelong entrepreneur who has run a variety of retail, wholesale and manufacturing businesses over the last 43 years (he was responsible for reintroducing the Vespa Scooter back into the Canadian market in 2002), Morey takes care of the financial side of the business while Jennifer manages the shop, which includes seasonal buying trips to Europe and the U.S.
“Jennifer has always felt that there was a bit of a gap on the North Shore in terms of availability. These are brands that my wife has been buying for decades for herself. She couldn’t find them so she just decided that she wanted to give this a whirl,” Morey explains.
Those brands include Natalie Martin, James Perse, Golden Goose Deluxe Brand sneakers, a brand of luxurious and affordable women’s shirts called Frank & Eileen shirting, Forte Forte, Zadig et Voltaire, and Nili Lotan.
“My wife has been buying Natalie Martin in the States, primarily at Barneys for years. And we’re the only store in Canada that sells that line,” Morey explains.
While the clothing brands are high-quality, their esthetic is primarily “casual luxury.”
One example of this is ATM (which stands for Anthony Thomas Melillo), a designer who used to work for Barneys and was tasked with creating the perfect women’s T-shirt, which Ami Boutique now carries in a variety of colourways. “It’s not expensive clothing but it’s the quality that’s impeccable,” explains Morey.
Morey says the store’s clientele ranges in age from 25 to around 70.
“These are people who are well-travelled. They’re not necessarily well-healed, but they’ve travelled the world and they shop in L.A., they shop in Paris, they shop in London,” he continues.
The shop owner likens Ami Boutique to a little Barney’s on the North Shore.
“There are so many people (here) with exceptional taste and we feel that they should have a place that is local that recognizes their preference for quality and curated fashion,” he says.
One of the jet-set brands Ami Boutique carries is K.Jacques sandals, which have been manufactured for decades in the same family-run factory in St. Tropez.
“My wife has been buying them for 20 years every time we would go on holiday, and we wanted to have them in the store,” Morey says.
The same goes for Golden Goose Deluxe Brand sneakers which Jennifer first discovered in Toronto in 2006.
Ami also represents local brands, including Palu, a technical cashmere company based on Bowen Island.
With Christmas around the corner, Morey says Ami Boutique is stocked with a number of gift items. These include goods from a particularly interesting homewares brand called Raumgestalt which is known for its intelligent design.
There’s also a line of sculpted candles made by local artist Renée Lee Smith. “They’re busts of women that are candles. You can’t even believe how beautiful they are. They’re not expensive and they’re a unique gift item,” Morey says.
After seven months in business, Morey says the response has been wonderful.
“The community has really embraced the store. We’re getting tremendous positive feedback, and we’re getting repeat customers.”
Morey thinks this is in part due to the relaxed, no-pressure, no-commission vibe of the shop. Ami also boasts a seven-day money-back guarantee for new unworn items, an anomaly in today’s independent retail market.
The store also features special touches like a bowl of sample-size beauty products on display in the till area that customers can select from each time they make a purchase.
“That’s my wife. She’s nice and she cares about people’s happiness. She wants people to understand that this is a place that they can come in even just to say ‘hi,’ which they do, and that’s a really good feeling,” says Morey.
Ami Boutique is located at 2463 Marine Dr., West Vancouver, 604-281-4040, amiboutique.com.