– Words by Angela Cowan Photographs by Lia Crowe
For over 15 years, Patty Jeffs has been a fixture in Mill Bay where her independent boutique Patryka Designs serves up a blend of classic, trendy and elegant fashion for shoppers from all over Vancouver Island. But shortly before the boutique was birthed, Patty had spent half her life in Puerto Vallarta, and loving every minute of it.
“I moved to Mexico when I was 24,” she says. “I went on holiday with a couple of my girlfriends, then I went back a few more times and decided I wanted to learn the language.”
That led to an eight-month stint living locally to learn Spanish, and about a year after that, she moved permanently.
Puerto Vallarta is where she got her start in the retail business, managing a dive shop on the main boardwalk. Later, she purchased the shop with a partner. The prime location attracted a booming business, and she was quickly approached about opening up a franchise by a souvenir and T-shirt company based out of Mexico City. Since the inventory was already determined, “It was one of those no-brainer retail experiences,” she says with a laugh.
The businesses were successful, with additional boutiques and galleries in hotel lobbies, but after spending 24 years in Mexico, Patty, her husband and their two young children made the move back to Victoria.
“My mom was getting older,” she explains, “and I felt like I owed it to my husband and children to have the opportunity to choose between one country and one culture and the other. To have dual citizenship and both languages.”
The family didn’t know at first whether the move would be permanent or temporary, but soon after they moved back, Patty began building a new career here. In 2005, she purchased an existing boutique in Mill Bay and renamed it Patryka Designs, offering an unparalleled boutique experience.
The shop is over 2,600 square feet, making it one of the largest independent boutiques on Vancouver Island, and the space allows Patty to bring in a wide variety of designers and styles which have evolved over the years.
“Out of all the lines I started with, there are only three or four that either still exist, or we still buy from,” she explains. “We try to buy something for everyone. If people want linen or other natural fibres, or Canadian made, or a great selection of jeans and sportswear, we carry it. And the mix of different brands and styles are colour blocked, so people can zero in on their colours.”
But although the designs have evolved and changed over the past 15 years, the boutique’s atmosphere has remained as warm and welcoming as ever.
“We want customers to feel like they’re being taken care of, but not pushed. We want them to feel that we’re giving them an honest opinion. And I think for some people it’s a break from what’s going on in their lives,” says Patty. “Some people come in like it’s the local coffee shop to chat, catch up or share what’s going on in their lives with someone that genuinely cares.”
She adds: “It’s not just about shopping. We try to make it a fun experience for everybody, and have the atmosphere be upbeat.”
The 7 Sins
Whose shoes would you like to walk in?
Meryl Streep. She is one of the most talented and respected actresses of our time and I feel honoured that people have told me at times throughout the years that I look like her.
What is the food you could eat over and over again?
Mexican. Living 24 years in Mexico made me an addict!
You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?
Travelling filled with days of self-care and great food. And if there was anything left over, I’d buy a home in my favourite warm place.
Messy, tacky or poorly merchandised stores, and things hung on the wrong hangers.
Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?
Enjoying a spectacular view by the water, either alone or with friends and family, filled with laughter and fun.
What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?
Building a life and a house in another country, and learning another language that I could gift to my children.
What makes your heart beat faster?
Beautiful places, beautiful spaces and seeing my family happy.
You can find Patryka Designs online here.