Welcome this new artisan spot to the River Market

Churi aims to highlight local creatives

Linzy Le and her husband Huy pose for a photo at their shop Churi. Find them at the River Market.

What some New Westies might remember as a creative space that showed off artisan chocolate from all over the world has become a different kind of creative space at the River Market.

Linzy Le takes a moment to admire the beautiful crochet handbags that hang just off to the side of her shop—one part of her space in the former home of Origins Chocolate Bar. (For those who are unaware, Origins is still in the Downtown core—you can find it at 6th and Victoria.)

She still can’t believe Churi—a shop that sells not just her handmade goods, but the goods of other local artisans—is now a reality. The shop was named after her and her husband Huy’s two dogs: a husky and a corgi.

“I still get goosebumps about [how this happened],” she tells The Anchor, as we sit in her beautifully curated shop: paper cards gilded in tones of red, yellow, gold, and blue beckon the curious to pop in and take a peek; rings, necklaces, and earrings glisten like stars below the shop’s lights. Across the way, candles stand ready to be taken home and lit, flanked by assorted small statues of a variety of textures and shapes.

In typical tight-knit New West neighbourhood fashion, it was one of the owners at Origins—Peter Jorgensen—who affirmed the idea of the shop for Le. She’d actually been on her way to an event at the River Market when everything began to fall into place.

"I started out doing the New West Craft Market,” Le says, adding that this was one of many she made stops at. “I remember one day me and my partner were driving to this market, and I was saying, ‘oh, I wish I could open a store here.’”

As fate would have it, Le’s table for the day was set up not all that far from Origins. Jorgensen stopped by to have a look.

“Peter was so sweet and so nice,” she recalls, as he explained that they were looking to have someone take over their River Market space in anticipation of their move. Le jumped at the opportunity—despite this being her first own brick-and-mortar store.

Churi’s model is becoming a commonplace option in the artisan world: for a fee, creatives are able to display their goods at her shop. The maker is able to choose how long they’d like to keep their items at the shop—this is negotiated between the shop’s owner and the artist.

“I know it’s really hard [to be an artist and a vendor]. You can go to markets and stuff, and sometimes it can be hard to sell…I’m happy I’m able to share my space with people who make beautiful things.” For Le, being able to provide this option at a fair price is a major tenet of her work. “I know the economy is not so great right now, and a lot of people struggle.”

And according to Le, locals have been receptive. Her biggest sellers as of recent have been pop-up cards—also called quilling cards—with removable inserts so that they can be used over and over again. “We sell these every day!” Le exclaims with a laugh. “[Customers] love it, they appreciate it.”

Linzy Le, right, poses with her husband in front of their River Market shop. The name ‘Churi’ was inspired by their two dogs.

Le hasn’t completely removed herself from creating: those bags we mentioned earlier played a major role in spreading the roots of her entrepreneurship.

“My family is in textiles,” she explains, recalling some of the earliest exposures to the art and beauty of fabric in Vietnam. “We have been in the business for 20 plus years,” she adds, noting that while she loves it all, there’s a special place in her heart for weaving.

Le grabs one of her bags: a green crochet-style purse adorned with beautiful yellow sunflowers. To make one of these bags, she comes up with the designs, then connects with a small team of a handful of people. Depending on the bag’s style, size, and shape, it can take anywhere from one to two weeks just to make one bag.

“Crocheting, it takes a long time to make. So we have a manager who teaches people how to crochet, then we teach the design pattern.” In the case of the green sunflower bag, Le says they’d begin by crocheting a sunflower, then turn that sunflower into a square. The squares are connected together, handles are knitted—and you have a bag. “A lot of the [workers] are women in Vietnam who already have jobs, and then they work for us on their own time,” says Le, adding that it was also important for them to be able to do things comfortably at home, and at their own pace. “People can crochet whenever they want, whenever they are free.”

Today, Le and her husband Huy are excited to see what they’ve built. While the shop was only meant to stay within the old Origins space, the wares are spread out over two parts of the River Market. Both of them say they’ve made great friends with the other shop owners, and feel welcome.

“[If you want to create or start a business], just follow your heart. Two years, three years ago, even a few months ago I didn’t know what to do. We had to do our own research, we made mistakes, but we’d just do it. You will get to where you need to, eventually.”

You can visit Churi at the River Market seven days a week—they’re underneath the escalator connecting the first and second floor—tucked between Great Wall Tea Co. and Butterica.

You can also find Churi online: they’ve got a website, and you can also connect with them over Instagram.

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