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Unique Retail Concept Featuring Fashion and Bubble Tea Opens Toronto Flagship with National Expansion Plans: Interview

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A new bubble tea concept has been launched in Toronto that combines the unique Asian beverage with popular streetwear and lifestyle merchandise.

Benkei Hime has opened in the CF Toronto Eaton Centre with a second location expected to open in the summer at CF Markville Mall in Markham. And more stores are being planned for the future.

The first store is located on the lower level of the popular shopping centre between Garage and Steve Madden.

“I am a proud Torontonian. It has been my dream to build a flagship location here, and there is nowhere better to start than in Eaton Centre,” said Jason Wang, owner of the store.

Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

“At Benkei Hime, we want you to have a one-of-a-kind experience. If we can give people a good time during this tough time, then I think we did a good thing here.

“We consider ourselves as a fashion label, not really a bubble tea store. The idea is to push the boundary between art as well as beverage. The beverage is more tea, but some coffee, fashion and youth culture. It’s a brand for young people.”

In Asia, the brand is known for trendy clothes, Instagram-worthy beverage pictures and it’s a platform for young people to enjoy life and to express themselves.

Wang is an entrepreneur with a number of different businesses. The idea for Benkei Hime just seemed to fit in with the times.

Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

The pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone, especially young people. Wang wanted to build a culture, a one-of-its-kind concept, where East meets West.

The Toronto store has vibrant colours, a catchy design and Instagram-worthy decor inside.

Wang said Benkei Hime is slated to become a focal meeting point of various worlds. On the surface, it is a place that meshes one-of-a-kind bubble tea drinks with fashionable lifestyle merchandise. Dig deeper, and you will see that it seeks to also be an innovative way to connect Eastern and Western cultures harmoniously, he said. 

He said the interior designs and catchy environment, along with its unique drink flavours like Caramel Sea Salt Pearl Milk Tea and Hazelnut Creme Brulee, all are unmistakably an attempt to fully realize a brand identity that wears its Asian roots proudly, while still being true to the joie de vivre and local culture that is Toronto.

Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Wang said the concept is quite unique and something that shopping centres need today.

“They need a young crowd to come. After the pandemic everyone’s so used to Amazon and online shopping, we need people to come out and to enjoy life,” he said.

“We’re also looking for opportunities in Ottawa, Vancouver. We’re already seeing people lining up (at CF Toronto Eaton Centre). People like the concept, like the vivid colour and our design, and appreciate the art that is associated with the drinks.

“People like it, especially in the North American market, and we will open more stores, especially in Canada.”

Additional Images from Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre

Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Benkei Hime at CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

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 is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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