British Columbia·Still Standing

Hanging happy: Granville Island hammock store still swinging after more than 20 years

CBC's Still Standing series stops in at The Hang Out Place, a hammock store that is beating the odds as a small business in Vancouver.

The Hang Out Place has been helping people kick back and relax since 1995

Barbara Anne and Malcolm Holtby have beat the small business odds and kept their Granville Island hammock shop swinging for 23 years. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

If you're hoping to kick back and do some quality relaxing this summer then The Hang Out Place on Granville Island has you covered.

The hammock store has been in business since 1995 and is co-owned by husband and wife team Malcolm and Barbara Anne Holtby. Rent prices have gone up a lot since the mid-90s and many small businesses in Vancouver have had to shut their doors permanently, but The Hang Out Place is still swinging strong despite the odds.

The shop features hammocks of all shapes and sizes, and the Holtbys work with weavers across Latin America who supply the store with their popular wares.

"I think we're making the world a better place," said Barbara Anne Holtby, who enjoys knowing the customers are leaving with a purchase that will provide them with some rest and relaxation. 

The store also employs several young people, and not only does it keep the Holtbys feeling young, Barbara Anne Holtby said it also feels like they are "looking after the next generation."

The Holtbys have seen other businesses come and go during their 23 years as shop owners on Granville Island. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

'It's hard to sell hammocks in winter'

Sales are steady and the Holtbys say the Granville Island location plays a big part in that.

"It's probably the only place in Vancouver we could be doing what we're doing," said Malcolm Holtby. He said the constant stream of tourists keeps them afloat "because it is hard to sell hammocks in the winter."

But according to Malcolm Holtby, Granville Island has changed since they first opened their doors.

"There's a lot of empty spaces now....it's nowhere near as vibrant as it used to be."

Malcolm Holtby said one of the worst things to happen from a business perspective was when Emily Carr University relocated its campus off the island in 2017.

"People who worked there and were students there just loved our products," said Malcolm Holtby.

The Hang Out Place sells a variety of hammocks woven by Indigenous weavers in Latin America. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But summer is coming and the warmer weather usually brings more customers.

The Holtbys, both in their 70s, have seen a lot of summers since they launched the store 23 years ago and they are starting to think about kicking back themselves.

"Neither of us want to pass away behind the cash register," said Barbara Anne Holtby. "So we're going to have to pass it on."

Our regular feature Still Standing spotlights a hammock business that manages to hang-on in the face of online shopping. The Early Edition's Jennifer Chen brings us this story. 6:13

Still Standing is a series about the small businesses in the Lower Mainland that have managed to stay open despite the challenges. Listen every second Tuesday on CBC Radio The Early Edition.

If you have a suggestion for a store or business in the Lower Mainland that's been around for awhile and provides a specialized service, or has an unusual survival story, please email earlyed@cbc.ca

Jen Chen, The Early Edition

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