Specialty apparel and leather goods retailer Roots (Toronto) is grounded in the great outdoors. Its founders Don Green and Michael Budman met among the rustic cabins and wide-open spaces of Camp Tamakwa summer camp in Canada’s Algonquin Park. In 1973, they launched Roots as a comfort-focused footwear brand, eventually expanding its product offerings into active wear, comfortable basics and made-in-Canada leather handbags, jackets and shoes.
It was this brand heritage and love of nature that architectural firm CallisonRTKL (Baltimore) sought to capture within Roots’ 5100-square-foot store at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. The resulting design lends a modern, open cabin feel with natural, authentic materials throughout, such as plaid fabric, steel, tanned Italian leather and reclaimed, unfinished timber with exposed grain. According to Ron Singler, Senior VP at CallisonRTKL, the cabin concept “speaks to this idea of a place where you collect memories over time,” and the store’s open, flexible design intends to let Roots’ travel-loving customers do just that.
“The store is about experiences,” he says, explaining how the design team carved out lounge space near the fitting rooms for customers to gather and relax, and added wheels to fixtures so they could easily be moved around for in-store events as well as accommodate the variety of products.
A dedicated spot at the front of the store houses a leather customization workshop, where shoppers can personalize leather products. Everyone, including passersby, can watch the meticulous, handcrafted process in action. Locating the workshop at the storefront was a way to bring to life the local warehouse where Roots manufactures all of its leather goods, Singler says, as well as to display the brand’s pride and craftsmanship as soon as customers enter. There is also an area near the fitting room lounge and cashwrap that is designated for BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store).
Accenting the footwear section is a wall of real, unfinished timber logs, cut at a 3-inch depth, stacked and glued to create a woodsy focal point. The same log creation is echoed on part of the store’s exterior. “When you come into the space it should feel very comfortable and welcoming,” Singler says, “and exude a sense of their brand heritage and the idea of the cabin, but in a clean and modern way.”