Frank & Oak launched in 2012 as an online-only shop and has been steadily taking over Canadian (and American) cities with physical stores, including a flagship location in Vancouver.
Founded by Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani in Montreal, Frank & Oak‘s new Gastown location enhances the experience customers have on the site by creating personalized service and offering a chic space to shop connect.
“We always wanted to create opportunities to bring our community together but also to create a cultural experience around our brand,” says Song. To that end, they publish magazines, do a video series online, and sponsor festivals. “Then we realized that it was also important for us to be in your local neighbourhood. That’s how the store concept came about. You can do anything within a physical space. In our case, we’re doing this to provide better service to our customer and to be present in the local community.”
While online customers can live chat with staff who helps make selections, in real life, shoppers can book ahead of their visit to meet with an in-person advisor who preselects clothes and accessories, and has everything ready by the time he arrives. Frank & Oak isn’t just a shopping experience; it’s a lifestyle. Here, you’re as likely to see customers trying on clothes as you are see them sip a cold-pressed citrus drink from the on-site Krokodile Pear juice bar or have a beard trim in the barbershop.
“How to create a store in a space that has two thirds retail and one third community is how we approach every single project,” says Song. One reason Frank & Oak stores have barbershops is that they have found it gives their loyal customers the full package. With one visit, guys can get their hair cut, choose a shirt, and pick up some hair product or a cooking book while the staff prepares the changing room.
“The interesting thing about Frank & Oak is that we don’t just design products,” says Song. “It’s always been important to us to make the act of shopping, the act of looking good easier.” Frank & Oak stores are designed to make it easy to find what you want. “That’s part of the no-stress relationship we have with our customers.”
While other Frank & Oak stores feature coffee shops, for the Vancouver location Song decided to go with Krokodile Pear. “First of all, in Gastown there already are two or three coffee shops I love. There wasn’t a need for more coffee. Within the philosophy of bringing something new to the community, it felt that a juice bar was kind of cool and something that wasn’t really around here yet.”
Location, location, location
Being in the right neighbourhood is as important as creating a timeless collection, and creating the right aesthetics. Frank & Oak has set up shop in neighbourhoods Song and his team find truly interesting, such as Gastown in Vancouver and Mile End in Montreal. “Vancouver has changed a lot in the last 10 years,” he says. “When I used to live here it was very quiet, outdoorsy and relaxed. Now there is a much bigger cultural scene. A lot of neighbourhoods have developed with independent shops and coffee stores. That’s really exciting. And we’re happy to be a part of that.”
Song and his team went for a very fresh look for their location at 316 Cordova Street. It may look small from the outside, but step inside and the Gastown store is surprisingly spacious — massive, even. The store’s interior features exposed brick walls that create a nice balance against the sleek display cases, the warm wood floors and the splashes of green provided by the many potted plants. The overall look is decidedly Pacific Northwest and the laid back experience is akin to shopping in a perfectly coiffed BC forest.
Song intentionally created a space that has a lot of room to just chill. “You can grab a juice, hang with your friends, and have a hair cut. If this is a place where you feel you want to hang out, then we were successful.”
Story by Celeste Moure & Tyler Summers.
Photos by Allison Kuhl.