By Mario Toneguzzi
PJ L’Heureux, founder and president of the brand which features more than 100 beers on tap, told Retail Insider that the official opening at the Calgary shopping centre, on October 5, will be the company’s fifth location.
Since opening in 2011 in Calgary’s Beltline district, just outside the downtown core, CRAFT has expanded to locations in Edmonton, Vancouver and Ottawa.
“This project at Southcentre has been in the works for about three years,” says L’Heureux. “It’s a really good place for where we want to be and we were looking for something in the deep south or the central south and we never really got anywhere with both of those looking for spaces. We did have Oxford (Properties, owner of Southcentre) come to us with a project in Toronto and at the same time they said we could probably make something happen at Southcentre.”
“Originally for me I wasn’t huge on the mall. But we did some research in the States looking at some of the restaurant chains and it’s kind of the new wave of what malls are driving. They’re not just shopping anymore. They’re also entertainment driven.”
L’Heureux says there’s a reason shopping malls are still around and that’s because foot traffic is huge. For CRAFT, that will be a huge benefit.
“And the mall’s banking on us to drive traffic. So it’s a win-win,” he says.
L’Heureux says the Toronto location will open at beginning of November in the financial district at Yonge and Adelaide Streets.
“We’re super excited about it. It’s a flagship obviously. It’s right in the heart of Toronto. A big huge location for us,” he says.
Another location is planned for Kelowna, B.C., as the company took over a heritage building there – the old Paramount Theatre – a block off the waterfront and it will open in the spring of 2018. It features a rooftop patio overlooking Okanagan Lake.
“We’re looking at opening one a year basically,” says L’Heureux.
Shawn Hanson, general manager at Southcentre, says the presence of CRAFT Beer Market will mean a lot for the shopping centre.
“We’re very excited to have the quality of restaurant the CRAFT is. Beyond the experience they bring, they’re going to bring another entertainment component to the shopping centre. They’re going to bring fantastic beer and great food offerings,” says Hanson.
There’s a trend happening in that segment of the food and entertainment business. Consumers are looking for different things in a mall.
“A lot of people are looking for local food and local drink and CRAFT offers both of those things,” adds Hanson.
“Food and entertainment are huge pieces of the experience component that everybody’s looking to secure. Anytime you have the opportunity to secure a great tenant whether it’s CRAFT or somebody else, they instantly give you cachet and give you a better experience at your site. Everybody’s looking to do something in that and food and beverage is absolutely huge. There’s a lot of people competing for that dollar in the city but in the south side of the city CRAFT’s going to do exceptionally well just because of who they are, what they do and how well they do it.”
L’Heureux has long been interested in beer and when he was 18 he started brewing his own beer at his parents’ house. A trip to Portland, Oregon sparked his interest in perhaps creating his own enterprise and the idea for CRAFT Beer Market was born.
*All photos are via CRAFT Beer Market.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: email@example.com.