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Quebec-Based Sneaker and Streetwear Retailer Centrall Launches Store Expansion with Plans for New Locations [Interview]

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The idea of Montreal-based streetwear retailer Centrall really had its roots in the basement of where Lujah Dauphin Rénélique lived.

It was initially known as Dolphin Kicks before its incorporation in October 2019 and specializes in selling sneakers and high end streetwear.  Today, the company has five locations with plans to expand the market.

Centrall at 1382 Saint-Catherine St W, Montreal (Image: Centrall)
Lujah Dauphin Rénélique

Its flagship is in downtown Montreal at 1382 Sainte-Catherine Street. Other stores are at major suburban shopping centres including CF Carrefour Laval in Laval; Carrefour de l’Estrie in Sherbrooke; CF Promenades St. Bruno in St. Bruno; and Galeries de la Capitale in Quebec City.

The first store opened June 2018 in a little basement 300-square-foot space. The current retail space for stores is about 1,500 square feet.

“What we do specialize on is carrying the biggest selection of sneakers across Quebec and maybe Canada for our clients. So we have all the exclusive sneakers. The rarest sneakers. We have that all under one roof,” said Rénélique, the retailer’s President and CEO. “Whenever we have events like Black Friday or Boxing Day, we have crazy deals and we often have lineups that go up to two, three, four, five hundred people in lineups.”

When he was younger, he had some shoes that he thought were nice from Yellow. But when he got to school other kids told him they were not real sneakers. The real sneakers are brands like Nike and adidas. 

Rénélique did some research. He’s a collector at heart. It used to be Pokemon cards, Bakugan, LEGO. At first, he didn’t have the money to buy sneakers because he wasn’t working. 

“So I did my other passion street dancing. I used to dance on the street in downtown Montreal with my friend. I got a bit of money together and I bought my first pair and after that it kind of became an addiction. I bought a second pair, a third pair, a fourth pair. But at that time I was still 13, 14,” he said. “But as the time passed by I grew bigger. So all my other shoes I saved money for a long time for. They didn’t fit me anymore. So I started selling or trading my shoes for a bigger size. I sold one shoe and made a profit and that’s when I realized there was a business behind it.

“After that I kind of grew my brand using a lot of Instagram, YouTube. I was the first person in my town here to start using Instagram to sell sneakers. And then when we went to YouTube we started doing pop-up shops and I think around our third pop-up shop in that space was 300 square feet. We had a crazy turnout and we had over 300 people in line over the whole day of the event. That’s when I realized there was really a business.”

Centrall at 1382 Saint-Catherine St W, Montreal (Image: Centrall)

The first pair of sneakers he bought were the Air Jordan 9 Barons.

Rénélique is only 22 years old but has ambitious plans to grow the retail concept. The first location outside of Quebec will be opening in the Halifax Shopping Centre at the beginning of April followed eventually with expansion west of Quebec into the other provinces. 

“I don’t know how many stores we can grow to be honest. The business grew so much in the first few years. It’s hard for me to plan in the long term because there’s so many things happening and things that happen super quickly. But we’re definitely looking to open as far as we can in the future,” he said.

Rénélique said plans are also to introduce an online app to buy and sell sneakers across Canada in a marketplace setting where Rénélique will authenticate the shoe, clean it, collect pay for the seller, and send it to the end user. 

Ben Labrecque, Managing Partner with Oakmont Real Estate Services Canada, which is spearheading the retailer’s expansion plans, said Rénélique built an empire out of his basement.

Ben Labrecque

“He’s becoming super well known in this sneakerhead community,” said Labrecque. “He graduated from his basement to a basement retail store to on the street and then to a prominent location on Sainte-Catherine, obviously in a very impressive fashion and timeline. And now he’s venturing into permanent stores in shopping centres. It will still remain a combination of street and shopping centre, going after AAA assets.”

Oakmont is looking for select locations across Eastern Canada in enclosed malls and exterior locations of between 1,000 to 2,000 square feet.

Mario Toneguzzi
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 News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

1 COMMENT

  1. Wow! Only 22 years old and already riding a rocket of expansion requiring the services of a major real estate broker. Lujah Dauphin Rénélique is an impressive, serious entrepreneur, a textbook business school case built on street smarts. Perhaps the future for Rue Sainte Catherine is to be found as much in such nascent empire-builders as well as the big chains. Rénélique has gained a foothold in a crowded sportswear niche with big players. I wish him good luck as he grows his business.

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