The Denbigh Story
Denbigh is Vancouver’s leading provider of fine art storage, shipping, framing, installation and collection management. Since 1985 Denbigh has been a trusted partner in the art community – locally, nationally and internationally.
Ken and Lorraine Stephens have always loved art and together they have made a life and a career working in the fine art community in Vancouver and around the world.
In 1974 Ken Stephens was a third-year student in the fine arts program at UBC, he got a job as a prep at the Vancouver Art Gallery. “It was a really creatively exciting time. It was a wonderfully vibrant art scene in Vancouver,” said Stephens. Through art school and working at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Stephens was able to meet and build relationships with artists, collectors and galleries—relationships that he still holds over 40 years later. And, relationships are at the heart of what Denbigh does.
The fine art community is a very small niche market and the thing that is most important to Stephens is relationship. “Relationship is extremely important to me and to everyone that works here at Denbigh. It’s not about the money it’s about the relationship,” said Stephens. “When we do a job for someone we will bend over backwards to make sure that everybody is happy and that we maintain that strong relationship.”
Building Relationships Through Art
It isn’t just the client relationships that matter to Denbigh. It’s the employee relationships too. Through the years Denbigh has consistently employed people who are committed to the Vancouver art scene. Usually they are artists themselves and that gives them genuine appreciation and care for the pieces that they work with. Stephens credits the employees as being the ‘backbone’ of Denbigh, “The whole success of our business has been our employees. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to hire so many brilliant people. They are all unbelievably creative.” When Stephens hires he says that being an artist is one of the criteria that he looks for because workplace culture is so important. “It’s a small company, and everyone gets along tremendously. I can’t say enough good things about the staff we have. They are just phenomenal.”
These days Denbigh Fine Service employs about 20 people, but that wasn’t always the case. Stephens started with framing and installations working from his basement and his garage. The street that he lived on was Denbigh Avenue in Burnaby, and so Stephens Incorporated under the name Denbigh Design Ltd. “The name had a nice ring to it and it fit what I did at the time,“ said Stephens.
From the basement Ken and Lorraine ‘took the plunge’ and moved to an old auto garage on Seymour Street. Once they had the extra space Denbigh expanded to offer packing, crating and transport. The company outgrew the space and moved to Cook Street in1988. But after only one year a fire started in one of the other units in the building. “The fire literally burned down the entire building. We lost everything,” said Stephens. “At that point we had to make a decision. Are we going to rebound? Are we going to start all over?”
They rebounded, and then they grew. Denbigh found a new home in the space at 169 West 7th where they spent the next 20 years; expanding first into a larger space on the ground floor and then to take over the neighbouring unit. They also took on more staff and offered more services including storage and restoration. This is when they also started doing more consistent work for the art galleries and art institutions both locally and abroad. With all this growth they expanded very quickly and over the years have acquired three warehouse spaces in Burnaby for additional storage. The company name remained ‘Denbigh Design’ until about five years ago when they changed it to the current name ‘Denbigh Fine Art Services’ to reflect the scope of their services.
As Denbigh has grown Ken and Lorraine Stephens have made it a priority to giveback. They have consistently contributed to fundraising events, hospitals, and many other associations. Denbigh makes it a practice to offer a lot of their services for free for these organizations. “That is one of the things that we are most proud of, that we are able to give back to the community.”
In Denbigh’s early days,” said Stephens, “I wanted to service the local art community that I knew so well.” Now, over 35 years later Stephens says, “Denbigh has been good to me, but I’m not ready to retire yet…we are striving to be better all the time. It’s not about making money. It’s never been about making money. It’s about doing the best job you can for everybody and enjoying each day.”
Denbigh is passionate about giving back and making a lasting, positive impact in our community. We are proud to support various foundation, galleries and art-based events in our community. Read more...