When The Drake Hotel first launched its retail spinoff, The Drake General Store in Toronto back in 2008, it was a modest brand extension. The store was not unlike a typical hotel gift shop, albeit with the artful quirk of The Drake Hotel brand. It sold the kind of stuff guests may need such as toothpaste, plus a selection of stylish gifts – many of which were locally sourced.
Eight years into its tenure, The Drake General Store has grown in strides along with the hotel, but it has also carved out a space in the retail landscape as its own entity. On Tuesday, The Drake General Store marked a significant milestone in that trajectory with the opening of a new three-storey flagship in the city’s trendy west end. The store is the largest space the retailer has been in to date.
More than just another place to sell its wares (the retailer currently operates eight locations), The Drake General Store is billing the new flagship as a “lifestyle shopping experience” and a space for the kind of events that have earned The Drake Hotel cache over the years, such as workshops, live music, talks and film screenings. It’s not just gifts and clothes the shop is selling, either – in addition to selling packaged food products, the store is home to both a cafe and a “barber’s nook” operated by Crows Nest Barber Shop.
There are also plans for rotating pop-ups with artists and brands including an inaugural initiative with New Balance on the store’s 300 square-foot mezzanine.
The new space sits directly across from the original Drake Hotel location on Queen St. West. As it has branched out from the hotel, the store has opened six Drake General Store locations in Toronto, plus one in Ottawa and another in Vancouver. The company has also struck a series of partnerships that have extended its presence, like the pop-up it launched inside Hudson’s Bay in 2014 (two years later, you can still purchase Drake General Store products at the mass retailer) and retail space in UP Express terminal at Union Station in Toronto.
Earlier this year, The Drake General Store also began working with the ad agency Red Lion. Rather than employing the agency to handle its advertising, it has tasked Red Lion with creating “sticky” products for its stores, designed to earn positive PR and buzz on social media with an eye to growing the brand.
Here’s a look inside the store:
This story originally appeared at marketingmag.ca