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Quebec-Based Online Furniture Retailer ‘Prunelle’ Opening 1st Physical Store Amid the Pandemic

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Prunelle, a Montreal-based company that specializes in mid-century modern inspired furniture and décor, is launching its first retail store location after selling almost exclusively online since 2015.

While many retailers are closing their doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maison Prunelle will open its doors in the trendy Plateau neighbourhood of Montreal as more people spend time in their homes and look to create or enhance inspiring spaces that truly reflect their style.

“Prunelle was started out of a wholesale brand that we launched in 2015. It was established as the B2C arm of our already established mid-century furniture wholesale business (Pink&Brown) that was founded in 2003. We transitioned from being a wholesaler to a retailer and the idea was first to bring the product online and now we saw this as an opportunity to set up a proper flagship and make investment into brick and mortar retail,” said Charles Kay, co-owner of the company with his wife, Vanessa Stettler.

“The story goes back probably over 20 years. I had always had a passion for mid-century modern furniture and design and was an avid collector of vintage and kind of out of production, hard to find pieces that could be anywhere from the 1920s to the 50s, 60s, and even 1970s. Items that had interesting shapes and lines.

“The idea was that we were going to try and find a way to produce these products that were no longer really available. With our manufacturing background, my wife and I had been in the fashion industry prior and even then when I had a clothing line, we used to exhibit at trade shows and have all this vintage in our trade show booth. So we got to be known for it. We even put images of some of these furniture and items on clothing, on shirts, on logos. So we looked and basically found ways to start manufacturing the product that just wasn’t available or was at unreachable price points for the average person.”

The majority of product is imported but the company is looking at starting to manufacture some product domestically as well.

The location at 844 Mont-Royal Avenue East is being renovated at this time with anticipation of the store launch in April. It is about 1,400 square feet in a building that dates back to the mid 1800s.

“The Plateau in Montreal is really one of the cultural and artistic hubs of the city. It has a lot of history architecturally. It has a great demographic of people from different age groups. Professionals. Young entrepreneurs. People in the art world. There’s some young families there and there’s also some established people that have been there for decades,” said Kay. “So it’s a very nice cross section of what makes Montreal, Montreal.

“Architecturally it was right for us and I think it’s a very vibrant neighbourhood. Embracing the neighbourhood and embracing the culture of the neighbourhood was really important to us.”

Gabriel Dallaire, who will be the retail manager for the store, lives right across the street from the location. He understands the people and the neighbourhood.

Interactive Google Map of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal and surrounding area

Kay said the retailer’s goal is to become a neighbourhood institution at some point by growing and building relationships with people who live there.

“We want to become part of the community. We want to engage with the people who come to our store,” said Stettler. “We’re billing this as a bit of a lifestyle store. We want to have items in the store that would fit their lifestyle.”

Kay said the company hopes that with success there is an opportunity to expand its footprint.

“We’ll see how it goes and how time progresses,” he added.

“I think first of all without risk there is no reward. That’s simply said. One thing that we’ve learned over the last year is that simply buying everything online will not have a great long-term effect on communities. I think brick and mortar is a necessity. Being part of a community and being able to support local businesses and support local consumers is important and I think we have to be visionaries and look at the long-term effect that we’ll get out of this and we’re hopefully on our way to getting out of this. We need to ensure that we have these vibrant retail destinations and these storefront shops that support the communities.”

Stettler said it’s also important to have a physical location for retail where people can come in, touch and feel items, and to talk to people for advice.

“It’s very much an engaging sensory experience to be in our store,” said Stettler.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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