Actually, this isn’t a rumour. According to Retail Insider, the Roots store on the corner of Bloor and Bellair Street in Yorkville is moving across the street to MAC’s old storefront (89 Bloor West), a location that has been sitting empty for more than two years. This is disappointing, considering how much smaller the store is (less than 1,700 square feet versus its current 15,000 square feet). Is this the downfall of what many consider a Canadian icon (even though the brand was founded by two Americans)?
In the 80s and 90s, Roots was a Canadian icon, a symbol of preppy, idyllic summers in Muskoka with their soft, beaver-logoed sweatshirts, and later in the 90s, the official outfitter of the Canadian Olympic team before Hudson’s Bay outbid them (remember those po’boy caps?). They also sold letterman style jackets with “73” (year of the brand’s founding) and, of course, leather goods like bags (I had a mini purse from the late 90s that I used for clubbing in university), keychains and wallets. When I was in teenager in the 90s, many girls at my school wore Roots oxfords as part of their uniform (we all had to wear black, lace-up oxfords). Roots doesn’t seem to be the first brand in people’s minds when they think Canadian – not even close. When asked, I bet that Tim Hortons or Canadian Tire come up first (to be honest, both brands seem to play up the patriotism). But again, it might be a socio-economic class thing. Roots seems to have an summer camp and cottages kind of vibe (and to a certain extent, “collegiate”) – something that is more middle to upper middle class, while Timmy’s and Canadian Tire are more “common” and for everyone. Or maybe Roots is too “Toronto.”
The author’s Roots purse (circa 1998) she used in university.
Back to the Yorkville store. I grew up in the Willowdale area, so Roots for me meant Bayview Village, not Yorkville. I know that one of the earlier Yorkville locations was at Hazelton Lanes, which then moved to what is now Victronox some time in the mid to late 1990s. It then moved to the current spot just over 10 years ago. Until recently, press events for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) were often held at the store. I recall seeing a huge line a couple of years ago when Brad and Angelina were in town for an opening (for him). Now that TIFF has largely moved down to the King and University area, Yorkville is a bit quieter (though TIFF has not completely disappeared since many celebrities still stay in area hotels).
This isn’t the first Roots store to extremely downsize. The store at Bayview Village was in a much larger space for much of the early 2000s, but moved to a much smaller store in 2010 (the old spot is now a Pusateri’s). As to who is replacing Roots Yorkville, nothing has been announced yet. Stay tuned, though.
What are your thoughts on this? What store would you like to see take Roots’ place?