In Their Habitat: Genevieve Allen

Pictures by Helena McMurdo

On a brisk but tolerable winter morning and equipped with bribes (lattes and mini pain au chocolate) we arrived at South Granville gem; Violet Boutique. Proprietor and inhabiter; Genevieve Allen opened her doors to us so we could snap photos, bombard her with questions and bask in the loveliness that is her shop. Helena was armed with her camera and I with my broken pencil and scraps of paper. 

As usual Genevieve greeted us with her easy laugh and bright personality. I’ve known Genevieve casually for several years. However since Violet closed its doors on 15th and re-opened down on 6th I don’t see her as often as I’d like. But the move has been wonderful for her and her business. Resident pup, Bea was on hand to oversee the proceedings. “I combed her ears specially today” Genevieve said as she picked up the exceedingly cute King Charles spaniel.  

Genevieve is born, raised, educated and thriving in Vancouver and has lived and worked in the neighborhood for years. She began her love affair with South Granville working at the celebrated restaurant West, while attending Emily Carr for Fine Arts. After a couple of years, Genevieve yearned for a change. Quitting her job and dashing across the street she found the change she was looking for at Misch. Surrounded by all things gorgeous she was in her element. Dipping her toe in the fashion retail pool she was hooked and assisting with buying and venturing to style hubs such as Paris and New York it became apparent it was time for Genevieve to realize her dream of opening a shop of her own. 

Harnessing her creativity and experience the Violet we know and love was born in 2008. Originally looking at locations all over the city, fate presented itself and she found herself back in familiar territory when an ideal spot opened up on SG. When asked where the name Violet came from, Genevieve answered, “It’s a really boring story, I wanted to name it Blanche.” She was met with disapproval (for reasons I don't understand) and other names were debated until Violet (named for the flower not the color) was chosen. An appropriate name I think now, especially after learning about Genevieve’s love for fragrance. When she travels, Genevieve’s go-to keepsake is a bottle of perfume. The romance and practicality of this kills me. The romance continues as she talks about her perfume bottle collection, describing with excitement her most prized art deco cut glass treasure.

Violet, Bea and Genevieve worked happily just South of Meinhardts for several years. However finally in 2013 it was time to move. Keeping it in the hood, Violet joined the new generation of inhabiters down on 6th Ave. There’s a feeling of community and family in this little pocket of lower SG that Genevieve loves. Her favorite neighborhood spots have shifted and now they include the acclaimed; Farmer’s Apprentice and Beaucoup Bakery. 

We had a great morning, chatting about mystery novels, perfume bottles and the joys of being a self proclaimed home-body. We talked about trying to get back into painting, (which she equates to exercising), and most desired pieces currently residing in the store. There's A LOT to covet in Violet. Genevieve makes trips to New York a few times a year and thoughtfully chooses pieces based on experience, customer demand and adapting to trends. From embroidered clutches to metallic trousers, my grimy little mitts want to touch everything. 

The boutique has a tranquility about it, with a feeling of sunshine and summer that is present (even when it's cloudy) due to it's high ceilings, expanse of windows and calm white walls. When talking with Genevieve we discusss travel and how her buy trips no longer include Europe. We discuss her favorite destination, Kauai (and her latest fragrant acquisition). It's interesting to note that the geographical change of her shop has also changed the ambience. Keeping its original warmth and friendliness it's now less a Parisian boutique and more a relaxing getaway. Seasons and fashions change, but the most important part of Violet remains constant: Genevieve. Her vision, and dedication to something she truly loves is apparent and her shop exudes hospitality and style. Like so many times we pass by Violet we leave after our interview in a great mood with Genevieve waving to us through her window while Bea dozes in a sun beam. 

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