For many years Steve Coulson and Cristina Ciccone were customers of The Celtic Treasure Chest and were attracted to the shop for its fine assortment of products from the United Kingdom.
When they discovered Steve and Lil McVittie were selling their established business Steve and Cristina started stocking up on products. Then they had an idea; rather than see the well-loved store close down (if nobody bought it) they ran through the scenario “what if we bought the business?”
While neither of them had retail experience, they knew they loved the store and had sentimental attachment to it. They had been bringing their kids to The Celtic Treasure Chest since they were little to introduce them to Steve’s British heritage (he grew up in England). These were all signs that this was an interesting path to explore.
They began imagining what their new life would look like and made the McVitties an offer. In November 2016 Steve and Cristina became the new owners of The Celtic Treasure Chest.
Cristina is a registered clinical counsellor and Steve is a computer programmer. Cristina continues to work part-time in her profession but Steve left his career behind to work at the shop. Their daughter Lalla attends UBC and works part-time managing the family business. Their son Gianluca also works at the store.
Lalla says, “We have learnt so much about retail and imports.” The family has a lot of fun working together as a team.
Food and memories go hand in hand. The sight or taste of a particular food has the power to take people back to another place and time.
Cristina and Lalla report that it is common for customers to feel nostalgic and they share some wonderful stories. Customers include expats from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand who miss their favourite products, and passers-by who are curious to see what is inside the shop with the flags outside.
People will share their childhood memories; Lalla remembers one customer bursting into the Murray Mints jingle. Another customer remembers eating Hula Hoop potato snacks off the end of her fingers (now they come in kid and adult finger sizes). Shopping experiences can be filled with emotion and some customers have been known to yell with excitement. Senior clients will come in regularly with their adult children to stock up on favourite products.
“Last summer Dunbar was like little Ireland,” Lalla recalls. There was a huge influx of young Irish students in the area who couldn’t believe their good luck when they discovered the shop that made them feel like they were home.
“The Celtic Treasure Chest has the feel of a small corner store. It is a destination specialty shop.” Cristina Ciccone
At The Celtic Treasure Chest you will find products imported directly from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The neatly arranged shop has a deli and dairy section stocked with U.K. style sausages, bacon, meat pies, sausage rolls, pasties, Scotch pies, haggis, Scottish kippers, haddock, white (Mealy) pudding and black (blood sausage) pudding, clotted cream, double Devon cream, British and Irish cheeses.
Baked goods are made locally and fresh bread comes in weekly. Both the Scottish black top and Irish soda bread are very popular. As for the fresh Scotch eggs, it is difficult to keep them in stock; they sell out as quickly as they arrive. Look for them each Tuesday and Friday.
Grocery items are plentiful and there is a list as long as your arm of what fills the store’s shelves including jams, marmalades, teas, biscuits, chocolates and sweets galore, beans, soups, chutneys, pickles, spreads, and baking supplies.
If you are a crisp fan (aka potato chips!) you will be impressed with what Lalla describes as “weird and fun” flavours.
You will feel like you are on another continent when you explore the assortment of crisp choices from Marmite to roast chicken, roast steak, prawn cocktail, haggis and crispy bacon.
In addition to the array of groceries, you will find a good selection of imported hand soaps and health care products. Not to be forgotten are the collections of Royal Family memorabilia, flags, decorative tins and tea accessories.
Cristina points out they have expanded their merchandise with some pop culture offerings such as Doctor Who and Harry Potter gift items, Little Miss and Little Mr. books, tins and lunch boxes.
St. George’s Day is April 21 and The Celtic Treasure Chest will be on site with a booth at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown. The “British Invasion” event promises food, entertainment and a whole lot more.
The May 19 royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle isn’t far off now. To mark the occasion The Celtic Treasure Chest will be carrying collectibles from mugs to plates, fridge magnets and tote bags.
Taking on this retail adventure has been extremely rewarding for Cristina and Steve. Cristina says, “We love challenges and learning new things. I am so proud we are able to do this.”
The Celtic Treasure Chest
5639 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6N 1W5