About Us

We are a 6400 square foot furniture, kitchen, home décor and gift store located in a 110 year old, refurbished building in the heart of downtown Nanaimo. The atmosphere is welcoming, the products understated, yet elegant….but we’re not above offering the occasional off-beat or “edgy” item either.

Our warm and friendly staff take the greatest of care to ensure that your shopping experience is both fun and fruitful! Our goal is to make you feel welcome each and every time you visit; and we want you to visit again….and again…and again.

Enjoy browsing through our website… but remember: It’s just the “tip of the iceberg”! Make your way to the corner of Bastion and Commercial. Take a few moments for yourself and soak up the atmosphere. You won’t regret it! 

click here to view the barb and bill show on Flying Fish

Downtown Retail History

We've heard many tourists commenting that Flying Fish is housed in a fabulous building.  In fact, they noticed that the Downtown is full of fabulous buildings.  The comments sparked an interest in the history of the 100 year old building.  Christine Meutzner of Nanaimo Community Archives was contacted and she provided an amazing wealth of material and pictures. The Community Archives is located just down the street at 150 Commercial St, at the lower, Wharf Street entrance of the Nanaimo Arts Centre.

In 1898, A R Johnston and Co secured a large piece of property on the corner of Commercial and Bastion Streets where they built a large retail and warehouse space.  According to a copy of an advertisement placed in the 1903 Daily Herald, provided by Christine, the original retail space conducted business with a view to providing the choicest class of goods. The building, a cornerstone to downtown Nanaimo, stands majestically along with many other downtown traditional buildings.

In 1913, a dynamite-laden steamer ran aground and exploded near Protection Island. Named the Oscar Explosion, the destruction included the windows of Commercial St and area buildings.  But the A R Johnston and Co building survived and the retail business continued to thrive. 

Angus R Johnston was born in Ayrshire, Scotland but became a resident of Nanaimo around 1877. He was very involved in the community as president of the Nanaimo Gas Works and founding member of the Board of Trade (now the Chamber of Commerce). He was repeatedly urged to run for Mayor of Nanaimo and Dominion parliament which he steadfastly refused, preferring the retail business.

A R Johnston and Co became the Metropolitan in the 1920’s. The Metropolitan, a retail fixture in the downtown for many years, included a lunch counter. Over the years the Metropolitan converted the store to a SAAN and then the Red Apple discount centre as the downtown deteriorated because of newly constructed malls in north Nanaimo.  In the mid 1990’s, Glen Saunders bought the building with a plan to house Duthie Books and the Book Store on Bastion Street.  When the deal failed to materialize, he divided the building into two spaces: one space for Fascinating Rhythm and one for a retail store that only stayed a year. The sudden loss of his tenant and his commitment to the downtown spurred Glen to renovate in order to put in his own store, Flying Fish, into the space.  He has never looked back.

Glen grew up in Nanaimo and attended NDSS before moving to Northern B.C in 1986 to manage part of his family’s trucking business.  In 1990, he opened his first retail store, the Yellow House Gift & Home, in Terrace; the Cow Bay Gift Galley in Prince Rupert opened a year later.  He currently divides his time between the communities where he works. He has contributed to the various communities over the years as a member of the Housing Committee in Nanaimo, past chair of Northern B.C. Tourism, founding chair of Terrace Tourism, past chair of Prince Rupert Tourism, and board member of the Northern Development Fund, Prince Rupert Economic Development and the Museum of Northern British Columbia. 

Several years after opening its doors, Flying Fish continues the retail trade tradition started by A R Johnston and has added to the revitalization of downtown Nanaimo.

It makes one wonder what the next 100 years will bring...