Kevin Smith outside the Antique Barn on the Trans Canada Highway. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Big red Antique Barn on the highway in Chemainus garnering attention

New owner emphasizes more vintage items and collectibles to attract younger people

The iconic Antique Emporium building on the Trans Canada Highway has undergone a dramatic face lift and became the Antique Barn in the process.

Kevin Smith took over as the new owner of the antique and collectibles business as of last July 1. The painting of the structure by Great Dane Painting from its previous grey to distinctive barn red so it now stands out as a highway landmark occurred at the end of September and into early October.

The same paint crew applied its magic touches to historic Providence Farm in Duncan last spring.

Smith has been hard at work since assuming operations, making significant changes inside and out to bring new clientele into the business. It’s already paid off with an increase in the number of vendors from 34 up to 42.

“We’re not just focused on antiques anymore,” said Smith. “We’re trying to get the young people interested.”

He has considerable plans along those lines for the days ahead such as a Friday night market from 5-10 p.m. throughout June, July and August plus food vendors and local crafts.

“We’re hoping to get a permanent food truck here on weekends,” Smith added. “We’re looking for people.”

For now, it’s first things first with a store-wide 10-50 per cent off the entire place during the whole month of February.

Smith has a very interesting background, but this is a departure from his long-time norm.

“I’ve always been an eclectic person,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be a chef when I was in Grade 3.”

Smith made the most of his years in the food industry up to now in his early 50s when a change of pace seemed in the cards.

“I worked in Europe for many years for an Italian baron,” he indicated.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, literally, as he spent considerable time in the high arctic and was even once a personal chef for former B.C. Lt.-Gov. Steven Point.

Smith grew up in Winnipeg and headed west to Edmonton to start working with Earl’s during the early days of the chain. His career as a chef spanned the globe and included a stint on the Holland America Lines of cruise ships.

His previous experiences on the Island include working for Coast Discovery Inn in Campbell River and the famed Il Terrazzo restaurant in Victoria.

Smith enjoyed all those years in the business, but has welcomed the change.

“A friend of mine who owned it was wanting to retire,” he explained. “He offered it to me and I accepted the business.”

Vaughn Ford had been the owner of the Antique Emporium for 13 years.

Now it’s time for Smith to put his stamp on it and he’s already got six months under his belt.

“We have more vintage and collectibles instead of just antiques,” he pointed out.

“Internally we’re building a big mezzanine with some permanent displays.”

People who frequent the highway through Chemainus are taking a second look at the place.

“You’ve passed the place a million times, it’s time to stop,” said Smith. “We hear that every day.”

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Kevin Smith and his Antique Barn guard dog Joey. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The Antique Emporium undergoes a transformation to the Antique Barn with a new paint job. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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