Maison Henri: Vancouver’s Forgotten Parisian House

Maison Henri interior. This looks to me like Maison Henri’s 550 Granville St location. ca 1930s. Importex (Postcard) Co. Leonard Frank photo. Author’s collection.
The Province. 7 November, 1936.

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.

VPL 15916 Shops on Granville Street – Maison Henri at 550 Granville, ca1940 (flanked by Polar Furs and Betty’s Hats and Gowns). Frank Leonard.

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.”

Province. Apr 8 1909.

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.

A Maison Henri ad showing Henri Gautschi’s name switch. Vancouver Sun. 20 May 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.

CVA 677-377 – Storefront window of Maison Henri perfumery and hairdresser, 630 Granville Street. 1919.

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10 Responses to Maison Henri: Vancouver’s Forgotten Parisian House

  1. Terry says:

    An interesting read about one of Vancouvers early entrepreneurs. I always find it sad to see someone have so few years to enjoy their retirement. Thanks for telling us about Mr Henri.

  2. Maurice Guibord says:

    I agree with your explanation as to why he chose the store’s name. Henri is so very French and Gautschi sounds Italian. Though I would have assumed his middle name to be spelled Édouard. Thanks so much for pulling this together. A nice success story.
    Maurice Guibord, Société historique francophone de la Colombie-Britannique

  3. Cynthia Williams says:

    Wow… thank you for such an interesting piece of Vancouver’s history!

  4. Anne George says:

    I am the granddaughter of Henri and May Gautschi. I very much appreciated your article.

    The salons established by Henri and May Gautschi were always named Maison Henri. They named their business after his first name, which is not uncommon for businesses. As well as establishments on Hastings and on Granville, they also ran the salon in The Bay for many years. During the Depression, there were two storefronts with different addresses next door to each other at the 550 Granville site. My dad, Edouard (Ed) Henri Gautschi, told me that they sold the same products at both storefronts, but at different prices, because some people wanted to buy high end expensive products and others wanted to buy lower price bargain products, although they were actually the same product with different labels. They also ran the first hair dressing school in Vancouver and Henri was responsible for certifying hair dressers on behalf of the BC government.

    As time went on, Henri and May became so well known by the name Henri that it was often adopted as their surname; for example, May signed Dad’s and Aunt Nancy’s report cards as May Henri. On the other hand, Henri was very much involved with the Swiss community and for many years was the unofficial Swiss consul, greeting all newcomers from Switzerland and he was well known among Vancouver’s Swiss community.

    Henri’s brother followed him to Canada and worked with Henri and May. The couples took holidays together at rental cabins in West Vancouver and on Bowen. Henri and May never owned a place at Bowen, although his brother’s family did. I don’t think Henri planned to retire and spend time at Bowen, rather he was active otherwise, including often driving to California and at one time owning a small restaurant in Grand Forks, BC.

    I have records and a few photos from Maison Henri and my cousin owns the mirror from the salon; however, you provided more information to me from your research; for example, I had never seen the CJOR advertisement for Henri’s talks. Nor had I ever heard the story about the bank court case.

    Thank you for the story of Maison Henri and your research that adds to my family history.

    Anne (Gautschi) George

  5. Maurice Guibord says:

    We’d love to see the photos you have. Maurice Guibord, Société historique francophone de la C.-B., shfcb.ca

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