– Story by Lauren Edwards Photography by Don Denton
Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
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As Chris Manley whistles a jazzy tune through his teeth, I realize he’s a man of many talents. And indeed, in addition to his impressive whistling abilities, he sings and excels in business as co-owner of Resthouse Sleep Solutions — an organic mattress and bedding store in Duncan.
Vancouver-born Chris has been whistling since he was five years old, taught by his father while living in Richmond. He tricked his teachers by disguising his whistling abilities through his teeth, and “mastered the art of the different sounds and the noodling to it.”
After graduating high school, he worked for a corporate mattress company in Vancouver for 15 years. As a top salesperson and sales trainer, his career in the sleep industry was set, but the one-size-fits-all method of sales didn’t feel right.
“It’s an old way [of looking at it],” Chris explains. “Which is just alarming because [noramlly] two people sleep in a bed, and each person has different needs.”
When he left the corporate world and moved on to Duncan, Chris decided to change his lifestyle, starting with improving his health through eating organically. With the introduction to organic foods, he “started to clue in that conventional mattresses are not as healthy as we’ve been told they are.” And, he adds, this is not evening considering their environmental impact — with around “30 million mattresses a year going to landfills in North America.” With the world focussing on product sustainability, down to its roots, he thought, it makes sense that a community with a high-level interest in organics would want to embrace holistic sleeping habits too.
“As a kid, I remember complaining about taking naps, which seemed like a requirement. As an adult, having a good night’s sleep is vital.
“Once I don’t get enough sleep, my sugar addiction kicks in because I’m trying to get that jolt, and that actually hurts my brain. Then I start to get anxiety, then I get mild depression, and it’s just this cycle.”
He adds: “Because when you are laying there, if you’re getting hot, you’re tossing and turning, and you’re hurting, well that kicks in the brain…it’s ultimately what discomforts people. When you get into your 50s, 60s and 70s, if you’re not sleeping well, you can get sick.”
Chris and his business and life partner, Dawn Howlett, first launched a mattress business from their garage. Next, they opened an organic mattress gallery, complete with spotlights and showrooms. From there they set up shop at the Community Farm Store, and then, when space for a store opened up with a music studio above, Chris was able to combine his two passions — music and the mattress business— under one roof.
Chis says the idea for the business had always been in concept form, but when “out popped of Dawn’s mouth ‘Resthouse,’” the name helped solidify their idea.
Towels, linens, pillows and comforters at Resthouse are all made from organic cotton. The store also features handmade wooden furniture by David Martinello, as well as wool blankets made from angora goats and sheep on Ann Lindwall’s farm in Glenora, just outside of Duncan.
“We try to do as much locally as we can,” says Chris, adding that the business recently expanded its ownership team by adding Olga Roberts.
Resthouse gets involved in different community events, working with schools and donating products to different foundations, and making sure mattresses are properly disposed of. Each time they deliver a new mattress, the old one (if it’s still in good shape) is donated to charity.
Dawn’s decoration of the store was influenced by hygge (pronounced “hoog-ga”) — a Danish word meaning “a mood of cosiness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.”
The duo originally met at The Haven, which offered an improvisational a cappella singing course called “The Singing Soul.” Chris, who had always enjoyed music, says the course was “serendipitous because that’s where I met Dawn, where I really got into music, and where I learned that the universe will actually give you what you want if you ask for it.”
During the course, he was urged by instructor David Hatfield to “no matter what, just keep singing.”
So Chris continued his musical training on his own, playing a game of “whistle it or sing it.” He put his entire music library on shuffle — deciding to either whistle or sing each tune as it played.
Eventually he met The Paradigm Shifters, an improvisation band, which was looking for a singer. Improvising, band members begin playing their instruments and “find ways through intuition in the moment to create songs,” says Chris.
Years later, he’s now part of Dream Catcher, another improvisational band. Chris continues to pursue his passion for music, almost pushing himself, he says, to show his daughter, 14 and son, 12 — “who are both amazing singers” — what it means to not give up on dreams.
In addition to singing, whistling and selling sleep solutions, Chris likes “hanging out with the kids,” swimming in various lakes on the island and spending time at his parents’ home that has a “cabin-like” feel to it.
Other favourite pastimes include tennis and bowling (he was a competitive bowler in his youth), and practising music with Dawn through looping — a device that records and plays back music. Dawn is a huge positive influence in his life, he says, as well as his parents, who taught him to treat others with “kindness and heart.” He still carries this important lesson to “understand that we all struggle, and if you just default to kindness, the universe takes care of you.”
Now that’s something to whistle about.
Check out Chris’ company Resthouse here.