Hamuhk: Growing the Will to Chill
August 19, 2022
No visit to Vancouver is complete without a stop at Granville Island – epicenter of the city’s legendary laid back culture. Unsurprisingly, this is where you’ll find Hamuhk – The Hangout Place. It’s Canada’s only hammock store. And it’s booming – driven by a friendly, unabashed passion for the art of chilling out.
“North Americans don’t know how to relax,” says Collin Moore who bought the business with his partner Brandon in 2019. “We’re changing that, one customer at a time.”
In keeping with their mission, Hamuhk has an ultra easy-going approach to customer education.
“Sometimes we have to show people how to get into a hammock.”
At other times people will come into the store, have a rest and leave without buying anything. Collin doesn’t worry about it. He knows from experience – one day they’ll be back. Relaxing in authentic hand-made Mayan hammocks tends to be addictive. Collin knows all about the allure of hammocks first hand.
He originally encountered the store he now owns as a customer – back when he was an art student at Granville Island’s Emily Carr. The Hangout Place was already thriving -- launched into retail on Granville in 1995 by hammock pioneers Mal and BA Holtby. This adventurous duo had established a network of Mayan hammock artisans in Mexico, and –crucially- initiated production of an irresistible new kind of hammock chair.
Light, airy and incredibly comfortable those hammock chairs keep on winning legions of hammock converts year after year.
In a classic case of “do what you love” hammocks stayed on Collin’s mind, throughout his graphic design career. When he learned that the Holtby’s were considering selling The Hangout Place in 2019, he and his partner knew they had to become the new owners.
Despite the arrival of Covid in 2020, a solid strategic transition plan made the acquisition process smooth for everyone. Collin’s team started with the online business, including an new internet-friendly brand: Hamuhk! A redesign of the store space and a remarkable crew of outgoing, customer-service focused friends made the store re-opening seamless. On-going mentorship from the original owners was also key.
In an age of knock-offs and Amazon-scaled retail competition, ancient human craft and human relations are the true key to Hamuhk’s success.
“Eighty percent of our sales are in-store” notes Collin, “although online sales grew significantly during Covid.”
While growing online sales is a future target for the business, Collin never wants to lose Hamuhk’s small company vibe. Part of that is the great staff – friends and friends of friends - who put their own open-spirited spin on the concept of “low pressure sales”. The other part is the hundreds of Mayan artisans that Hamuhk supports, with fair trade pricing.
“It takes an artisan weaver a week to make a hammock – and you can definitely see the time and skill in the product” says Collin.
Travelling to Mexico and maintaining strong partnerships with producers helps keep Hamuhk real.
“Hammocks go way back in history – long before modern chairs and beds. I’m happy if more people discover how great hammocks are, and really use their hammocks.”
Beyond having a positive impact on Mayan communities, Hamuhk aims to make a difference by planting a tree for every $50 dollars spent at the store.
“We have a great API, that makes tree-planting manageable.” says Collin. “Growing by doing good” comes easily to Hamuhk who also direct mandatory bag fees collected under Vancouver’s by laws to beach clean up, through their support of the Surf Rider Foundation.
Deep roots on Granville Island and many friends in Vancouver have definitely been a plus for Hamuhk’s ownership transition. Actually, that’s the essence of Collin’s advice to new entrepreneurs.
“Turn to your friends,” he councils, reciting a list of areas from logistics to contracting, where friends jumped in with their professional skills. “Whatever you do, don’t try to do it all by yourself.”
At Hamuhk great friends and an easy-going attitude win the hearts of almost everyone who visits the store. The work/life success take-away? Relax!