Cheeky umbrellas capitalize on a Vancouver constant

John Kurucz - Vancouver Courier


Glyn Lewis runs Kent Street Apparel out of his home in Mount Pleasant. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Death and taxes are typically thought of as life’s two guarantees, though Vancouverites could reasonably argue for the inclusion of rain on that exclusive list.

Glyn Lewis is capitalizing on that fact.

Lewis owns Kent Street Apparel, a Mount Pleasant-based online shop that specializes in the finer points of apparel: high-end shaving kits, cuff links, watches and the like.

Where some of us wake up each morning with a touch of seasonal depression, Lewis hops out of bed this time of year with a spring in his step.

That’s because his brand of sassy umbrellas are moving like hot cakes. Offered in navy blue, yellow and red, the umbrellas have the French words “MERDE IL PLEUT,” emblazoned on them. The English translation of that phrase is “S***, it’s raining.”

“It’s super cheeky, so it makes people smile and that’s the whole point,” Lewis told the Courier. “I want to know that we are putting something good out there. I see people walk by me who I don’t know, and they’ll smile. That’s the whole point of the project.”

Lewis has been in business for about two years, and first saw the umbrellas a year before that while spending time in Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. He worked out a deal with the umbrella’s distributor to bring them to the wet coast, and has since seen sales double each year. He’s moving product as far off as Australia and Switzerland, and he’s got the umbrellas in more than a dozen bricks and mortar locations across Metro Vancouver.

“It definitely does brighten up rainy mornings for me because I know it’s good for business and more of my umbrellas are going to be out on the street that day,” Lewis said. “It kind of gives me a bit of jolt when I get up in the morning.

Yellow is the colour of choice for most, because — you guessed it — it reminds people of that bright yellow glob of gas in the sky that we’ll rarely see again before spring.

The umbrellas are a mixture of mostly polyester and cotton, and include a wooden handle, shaft and tips to withstand wind. They extend out roughly 50 inches when open and sell for $44.

“I can watch [sales] uptick during rainy periods,” Lewis said. “Whenever we get an intense storm or we get a couple weeks of intense rain, these things move a lot more. The sales run parallel to our weather.”

Lewis’s business can be found online here.

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