Henri Gautschi’s Vancouver hairdressing business, Maison Henri, lasted for over 35 years. But today the business and its proprietor are generally unknown.
Henri Edward Gautshci (whose surname sounded Italian) was born in 1875 in Paris, France. His father came from Switzerland.
Henri married May Phoebe Philips (born in 1882 in England). Together, they had two kids: Nancy May (1908-2008) and Edward Henri (1913-1999). May died in 1931.
Henri arrived in Vancouver ca1907. In 1908, he opened the first location of Maison Henri hairdressing and perfumery in the 300 block of West Hastings Street.
By the 19-teens, Maison Henri was located on the 600 block of Granville, and they had a hairdressing school across the street (the Henri Maison School of Beauty Culture at 619 Granville would remain there through ca1943; at that time, the hairdressing school was sold, apparently, to Maxine’s “University of Beauty Culture”.) By the late ‘20s, Maison Henri had moved to its final location at 550 Granville.
Gautschi was a bit peculiar when it came to his identity. He advertised his business as being run by “Mr. Henri” instead of by “Mr. Gautschi”. Why he chose to be known by his first name instead of his surname isn’t entirely clear.
It could be that he had little confidence in the sophistication of early Vancouverites; that he didn’t think the average resident would be able to cope with the pronunciation of “Gautshci”.
Or perhaps ‘Gautshci’ didn’t sound ‘French’ enough to him. The Maison Henri, after all, advertised itself as “the only Parisian House in Western Canada.”
Or it could have been that the reason for the first/surname ‘switcheroo’ was related to his banking practices. In 1916, there were a pair of creditors to whom Gautschi owed just over $600. The pair tried to garnishee Gautschi’s Royal Bank account, but the bank would not process the garnishee, as the Royal had nobody with that name with an account. It seems Henri had his account at RBC in the name of ‘Gautschi Henri’ and he signed his cheques by the same name. The court (oddly) upheld Gautschi’s right to have an account in another name and for his assets in that account to be protected! He continued with the name switch in ads at least until 1933.
Gautschi wound up in the law courts on other occasions. These pertained to him allegedly paying one of his hairdressers less than the provincially-mandated minimum wage. After the case bounced around in appellate courts, he was found, ultimately, to be in the wrong and had to pay the hairdresser the sum of wages she had owing her.
In 1940, Maison Henri opened a branch shop (in addition to the main shop at 550 Granville), in south Granville (2543 Granville; at Broadway). The plan was that the South Granville shop, in addition to offering hairdressing services, would also carry a full line of costume jewelry.
Maison Henri closed its doors in 1944, when Gautschi was 71. He planned to spend much of his time on his Bowen Island property. Henri died in 1951 at the age of 76.
The principal building in which Maison Henri was located for most of its life, 550 Granville, has had some distinguished tenants: In the 1950s and ’60s it was Foncie Pulice’s street photo headquarters; and in the ’80s, it was home to the much-missed Marks and Spencer department store. Today, it is Grand & Toy stationers.