Stratford boutique specializing in traditional Asian art and culture finds new owners

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The owners of Stratford’s newest small business have a set of traditional Chinese fortune sticks in their new specialty store on York Street, but Koi Thompson and Maggie Liu will admit that the opening of the Dancing Waters store recently came as a total surprise. .

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“Don’t you think it’s fate? Liu asked her friend and business partner on Sunday, surrounded by the unique collection of handmade Chinese and Japanese art, brass items, home decor and jewelry.

Their foray into retail seemed like a fate after a stroll on York Street in September.

Soon after dropping their daughters off at a nearby art class, Thompson and Liu decided to visit Yoki Tong, the owner of Symphony in Brass. It was then that they learned that Tong was returning to Hong Kong, the home of her family’s famous brassware business, and had recently decided to sell the downtown Stratford store she owned. opened in 2004.

Thompson and Liu quickly decided to seize the opportunity and about a month later they were ready to open their own version of the store, with a new name and a few other twists.

“Yoki had done a great job and the store was successful with many loyal customers” Thompson said. “We wanted to continue the business with our own tastes and our own style. “

Koi Thompson presents one of the specialty items available at his new York Street boutique, Dancing Waters Boutique.  Similar to its predecessor, Symphony in Brass, the boutique specializes in traditional Asian art, brassware, giftware, home decor, and exotic jewelry.  (Chris Montanini / Stratford Beacon Herald / Postmedia News)
Koi Thompson presents one of the specialty items available at his new York Street boutique, Dancing Waters Boutique. Similar to its predecessor, Symphony in Brass, the boutique specializes in traditional Asian art, brassware, giftware, home decor, and exotic jewelry. (Chris Montanini / Stratford Beacon Herald / Postmedia News)

Thompson and Liu are both originally from China, but they plan to expand the store’s reach to include items from other Asian cultures, including Japan, where Thompson lived for 17 years before moving to Toronto to explore. western culture.

“Stratford is becoming more and more multicultural,” said Thompson, who arrived at Festival City in 2013 and is also a film and television producer with Ballinran Entertainment, the local company founded by her husband, Craig.

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“As a shopping and tourist town, we attract people from many places and many different cultures, and it is wonderful to have the chance to share our culture with visitors to Stratford.”

Liu, who also shares a computer background with Thompson, moved to Stratford in 2019 to be closer to her husband’s family in New Hamburg. This was the second time she immigrated to Canada after initially spending 12 years in Mississauga as a healthcare IT consultant.

Maggie Liu tells the story of a tricolor ceramic horse available in her New York Street store, Dancing Waters Boutique.  A familiar symbol of China's Tang Dynasty, this is one of several high-end traditional Asian art pieces the store specializes in.  (Chris Montanini / Stratford Beacon Herald / Postmedia News)
Maggie Liu tells the story of a tricolor ceramic horse available in her New York Street store, Dancing Waters Boutique. A familiar symbol of China’s Tang Dynasty, this is one of several high-end traditional Asian art pieces the store specializes in. (Chris Montanini / Stratford Beacon Herald / Postmedia News)

Although neither Thompson nor Liu have worked in retail, they are both very keen on sharing their Chinese heritage and knowledge of other Asian cultures. They are especially eager to share the cultural significance of their boutique’s items, which, when public health rules permit, will include practical examples such as these traditional fortune sticks, authentic tea sets, Japanese kimonos and much more. others. elements.

Most of the shop’s patrons are Western collectors and admirers of fine art. The parts offered by Thompson and Liu are handcrafted and in some cases hard to find even in the places they came from.

Liu said she hopes their store can help challenge the stereotype that Chinese products are imported primarily because they are cheap to produce.

“Each piece has a little story behind it, that’s the fascinating part,” she said. “When I talk to clients, they are really interested and that has inspired me too.

“I feel deeply… that there is a certain disconnect between east and west. Somehow I think maybe we can play the part of the middle, bring that bridge, make that connection. This is how we see our store in the future.

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6-year-old Jaden Thompson uses a traditional dancing water dragon bowl, a symbol of prosperity and good luck in China.  Brass bowls, which vibrate when their handles are rubbed, are a specialty of Dancing Waters Boutique, a New York Street boutique opened by Jaden's mother, Koi Thompson, and her friend and business partner Maggie Liu.  (Chris Montanini / Stratford Beacon Herald / Postmedia News)
6-year-old Jaden Thompson uses a traditional dancing water dragon bowl, a symbol of prosperity and good luck in China. Brass bowls, which vibrate when their handles are rubbed, are a specialty of Dancing Waters Boutique, a New York Street boutique opened by Jaden’s mother, Koi Thompson, and her friend and business partner Maggie Liu. (Chris Montanini / Stratford Beacon Herald / Postmedia News)

Of course, traditional Chinese brass is still a part of what Dancing Waters Boutique offers.

The store’s new name is inspired by one of its predecessor’s most popular items, a dancing water dragon bowl considered in Chinese culture to be a symbol of prosperity and good fortune.

The rubbing of the brass handles of the decorative bowl generates vibrations that make the water inside ripple and splash pleasantly, and the resulting feng shui would bring harmony and balance to the house.

“Many people are familiar with Chinese art and crafts, but most are not aware of the vast the history and culture behind them, ”Liu said. “Our goal is not only to retail these items, but serve as educators.

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