Speciality Canadian tea retailer T. Kettle has opened a store in Toronto’s PATH, the world’s largest underground shopping centre.
Owned by entrepreneur Doug Putnam, the brand joins his other retail concepts Sunrise Records and entertainment retailer FYE. Retail Insider did a tour of the 2nd Canadian location of FYE when it opened at CF Toronto Eaton Centre in June 2021.
Retail Insider interviewed Putnam in November 2020 where he shared that the new venture would be taking over 45 vacated leases to start the new T. Kettle brand. With provinces having different strategies to re-open and combat the pandemic, stores in locations such as Alberta and Newfoundland saw openings before other stores in the country.
David’s Tea closed its Royal Bank Plaza location in July 2020 in addition to 165 other storefronts, leaving more than a thousand employees unemployed. The company elected to only keep 18 stores after the reorganization, which saw a focus on the retailer’s e-commerce business and grocery partnerships.
The brand kept its CF Toronto Eaton Centre location open while closing the two PATH locations (Royal Bank Plaza and First Canadian Place). David’s Tea also shuttered stores throughout the city, including a street level location on Yonge Street at 10 Dundas, The Hudson’s Bay Centre at Yonge & Bloor Streets and on Queen Street West.
Employees that lost their jobs due to the closure of the stores were part of a large pool of unemployed retail workers as the shutdown came during the peak of the pandemic. Some talent were hired by T. Kettle which saw the opportunity to bring on knowledgable and fully-trained staff from the beginning.
The Royal Bank Plaza location was seen as a high-impact destination pre-pandemic, with direct access to the TTC and the last building commuters would walk through before Union Station.
Over the course of the pandemic the PATH was subjected to a number of government restrictions, including months with non-essential retail being forced to close and then being restricted further with stores that only had external doors being permitted to open.
For most of the last 18-months, the 1,200+ businesses in the 75+ buildings that connect to make the Guinness World Record’s largest underground shopping complex were excluded from conducting in-store sales.
In addition to having a significant drop in traffic, the concourse has been affected by retail tenants deciding to stay closed indefinitely while others have left completely.