Quebec Retailer Imaginaire Entering Ontario with 20,000 sf 2-Level Downtown Ottawa Store [Interview]

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The history of Quebec-based retailer Imaginaire began in 1986 when Benoit Doyon acquired the Comptoir Timbre et Monnaies located in Place Laurier. At the time, the business was no bigger than 150 square feet.

Today, Imaginaire, a leading retailer of collectibles and pop culture merchandise, has six locations in its provincial home base with plans to expand into Ottawa with a new 20,000-square-foot store at the CF Rideau Centre opening in the Fall, around October.

Anthony Doyon, Owner of the brand, described the retailer as a one-stop shop for collectibles.

“We sell puzzles. We sell board games. We sell books. Animes. We sell comic books. Everything collectible from the Royal Canadian Mint. Coins. So we sell sports cards, hockey cards, trading cards like Pokemon,” he said. 

The family-run business was started by Doyon’s father and mother. He and his brother Dave bought the company in 2016. 

Imaginaire at CF Rideau Centre (Rendering: Imaginaire)
Imaginaire at CF Rideau Centre (Rendering: Imaginaire)

The company’s biggest location is in Quebec City with a 28,000-square-foot store. Most locations are between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet. 

“The business is good for us. The customer likes the experience,” said Doyon. “Ottawa is our first outside of Quebec. For us it was kind of strategic to start learning how the brand and the stores are doing outside of Quebec and what products we have to change.

“There’s lots of French Canadians in Ottawa, and Ottawa being just by Gatineau, so it was more of a half step instead of a big step if we were to go into Toronto. We’ll be able to learn and I think we’ll learn a little bit slower than if we would have gone directly to Toronto or any other city in the province of Ontario.”

Imaginaire at CF Rideau Centre (Rendering: Imaginaire)
Imaginaire at CF Rideau Centre (Rendering: Imaginaire)

Doyon said the company does have expansion plans for the next few years, particularly in Quebec.

“We want to give it some time for Ottawa, a year or two, to see how the brand’s doing and how it’s going to do it outside Quebec. If we do good, yes we have plans to extend outside of Quebec more,” he said. 

“If it’s very good the first year, maybe the plans are going to be quicker. We like to be in the malls. So we’re looking at the great malls. Rideau Centre is the best mall in Ottawa. The malls where we want to go, they need to have some empty big space.”

The retailer said its mission is to offer hobbyists and collectors a wide selection of products in their favourite genre.

And its vision is to become the nationwide leader in all aspects of collecting, gaming and hobbies – having the most competent and skillful personnel and the widest selection of products to best suit customer needs.

The new store in Ottawa will be located adjacent to Simons on floors 3 and 4 of Rideau Centre and will have an area of approximately 20,000 square feet, making it one of the largest specialty stores in the region. This first store outside Quebec represents an investment of $3 million. Imaginaire also plans to hire between 50 and 60 qualified employees, who will be trained to provide the same level of exceptional service that has made the company famous in Quebec.

Imaginaire at CF Rideau Centre (Rendering: Imaginaire)

Customers can expect to find a wide selection of products, including sports cards, board games, puzzles, trading cards, action figures, books, comics, graphic novels, manga, and other pop culture merchandise. Imaginaire is also an authorized dealer of numismatic products by the Royal Canadian Mint.

“Whether you collect cards or coins, are a die-hard fan of Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel Comics, or just looking for something fun to do with friends and family, Imaginaire has something for everyone,” said Benoit Doyon, founder of Imaginaire.

The store also offers a vast collection of titles in English and French, catering to all interests and ages. In addition, Imaginaire is a bookstore authorized by the Quebec Ministry of Culture, which guarantees the authenticity and quality of its products.

“We will have plenty to delight French-speaking manga, comic, and graphic novel enthusiasts in the region to browse or order in-store. We also have an active online and virtual community, and we are very responsive to customer recommendations for new products.”

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. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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