Are you going to be dancing underneath the stars this summer at Motion Notion in Golden, B.C, or driving out to Driftpile for Astral Harvest? Maybe you’re among the lucky ones who managed to grab tickets for Shambhala’s 20th anniversary in Salamo.

Or maybe you’re like me, a broke university student who didn’t predict a pack of scalpers buying up all of the tickets the day they were released.

Either way, 1115 Kensington Rd is as far as you need to go to find the festival spirit this summer, or just to tide you over until the season brings your event of choosing.

In addition to the eclectic streets of Kensington, Bolli Imports also lives amongst the rainbow chaos of these — and other — notorious, Canadian EDM (electronic dance music) festivals. They’ve been a part of them for years, and it’s their humble beginnings in the grassroots movements of Canadian EDM festival culture that makes them an integral part of Calgary’s growing rave scene.

Re-creating the indescribable festival vibe in-store is part of what sets them apart from the others. Everything from the music playing in the background, the vibrant colours, the sweet smell of incense and the friendly personalities will make you feel as though your experiencing the intense heat at Shambhala, instead of a cold spring day in Calgary.

The beginning

It all started with the owner of Bolli Imports, a man named Adrian Bolli. He began by importing wool sweaters from Ecuador. But he wasn’t in it for the money. The success of his business has been — and still is —built largely on the concept of connection, whether it be with customers, employees or simply within the community.

BolliGirlsBodyWorkshop coordinator, Alexandria Conrad (left), and sales associate, Natasha Kendall (right), pose behind the counter of Bolli Imports. The two have always put customer relationships, growth, and experience, first and above all things for the business. Photo by Cassandra Woods

“It’s about connection and really being real and sincere,” says Natasha Kendall, a sales associate and long-time friend of Bolli. “When people come into the store, they’re customers, but first and foremost they’re people, and they’re an opportunity for connection, learning and growth. There’s so many people that come in that are teachers for what we need to know.”

Bolli found that entrepreneurship was a much more effective way of connecting with others than his former job as a physiotherapist had been.

“He loved dealing with people and he loved helping people, but found that it was more just filling out reports and not really feeding his heart the way he had imagined,” says Lisa Kempton, operations coordinator at Bolli Imports. “So he did some travelling, brought things back and got a good response. He loved the energy.”

Connection to customers

“We don’t care about sales. Our number one priority is connecting with people and making everyone feel welcome and loved, and building that community.” — Lisa Kempton

Building off that positive energy, Bolli went on to bring his items to festivals. This was before he opened either of the permanent retail locations in Calgary and Prince George.

“We are definitely one of the most well known because of the experience you have when you’re at our booth or at our store. We try to keep the feeling interchangeable whether it’s in store or at a festival, it’s always really light-hearted and friendly.”

Perhaps it’s because the focus of Bolli Imports has always been connection — the concept was born on the festival grounds that the festival vibe translates effortlessly into the retail store.  This is reflected in their relaxed approach to sales, and their emphasis on community.

“We don’t care about sales. Our number one priority is connecting with people and making everyone feel welcome and loved, and building that community.”

Connecting to community

To Bolli Imports, part of connecting to the community that has supported their success throughout the years is hosting different in-store events, including a monthly women’s Shakti [empowerment] circle, sound healing meditation, poi — a type of performance art — spinning workshops, rave-bra, and antler making classes, as well as appearances by live exotic animals.

“We have these workshops for people to be able to express themselves and grow,” says Alexandria Conrad, workshop coordinator.

Although the rave community may get a bad name in Calgary, because it’s often associated with drugs, noise complaints, and occasionally violence. The community promotes quite the opposite. Acceptance, peace, and unity are at the core of Calgary’s rave scene.

“It doesn’t even matter what kind of person you are, it just matters what kind of energy you bring in and how we all give back to each other. It doesn’t matter if you go to shows, or if your a part of the little things, just as long as everyone is accepted and everyone is loved,” says Conrad.

The Bolli Bear

BolliMannequinBodyA mannequin at Bolli Imports displays the infamous Bolli bear. Photo by Cassandra Woods

Another key aspect to the unique community surrounding Bolli Imports is the Bolli Bear. One of their top sellers, the Bolli Bear is made in Calgary and is recognizable across electronic music events big and small. Whatever kind of event you find yourself at, you’ll instantly recognize their bright colours and oversized ears. It’s the local take on the immortal spirit hood.

The Bolli Bear is what draws a lot of people to Bolli Imports. I got my first when I was 18, brand new to the world of EDM and eager to be a part of it. Because I didn’t live in Calgary at the time, my friends and I went on a road trip into the city. That day I felt as though I was finally a part of the community I had began to admire.

In retrospect, having a Bolli Bear or any other type of spirit hood doesn’t make you a part of the rave community. Rather, it’s having acceptance for others, working to spread positivity, and having a love for the music that brings these kinds of people together.

In the end, it all comes down to love.

Editor: Rosemary J. De Souza | 

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