OAK Expands Retail Presence with Flagship Store in Toronto, Introducing Private Label and Elevating the Sneaker and Streetwear Experience [Interview/Rendering]

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ONE OF A KIND, also known as OAK, which began as a resale boutique for footwear, is expanding its retail footprint with plans to open a new concept, flagship store this summer on Queen Street West in Toronto.

Franco Benalia, one of the brand’s founders, said the new store, its fourth, will be about 2,500 square feet.

“This is our biggest location to date and it’s probably one of the biggest sneaker stores in Canada,” he said.

“Before, our brand was associated with being sneaker, streetwear re-sellers. However, our brand really has developed more into a one-stop shop for anything that’s currently trending in the market. Moreover, we do focus on sneakers and streetwear but our brand is also going to introduce its own private label soon which we’ve been getting a lot of requests and demands from our community through our social networks.

“We went through a whole redesign, a whole restructuring in terms of the brand itself.” 

Future ONE OF A KIND at 333 Queen Street West in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
OAKShop Queen Street (Rendering: SB Architecture)

Before, the brand was referred to as OAKSHOP. Now it’s using the moniker OAK or ONE OF A KIND.

The brand has two locations on Montreal area street fronts – in Westmount and in Laval – and a location just down the street from CF Rideau Centre in Ottawa. 

The first store in Montreal opened February 2020.

“We still only focus on exclusive products. Prior, we didn’t have the widest range in variety and brands whereas now we have a much larger catalog. We’ll sell toy collectables, designer items, vintage designer handbags and more high ticket items typically whereas before it was primarily streetwear and sneakers,” said Benalia.

“The decision to open in Toronto was pretty straightforward because we also run an e-commerce website and we noted a great majority of our customers are actually from Toronto. So over the last year we’ve been getting countless requests from people about opening in Toronto. Based on the demand from our community as well as the data provided on the amount of interest we have in Toronto, it was almost a no-brainer to install our flagship location there.

“Toronto is one of the biggest consumers of retail goods in Canada. So logically for us that was the next step.”

Image: oakshop.ca
OAK Shop Ottawa (Image: OAK One of a Kind)

Benalia said the Toronto store will be used to elevate the brand in general and introduce new concepts through it. 

“We invested a lot of time and money into the design element of the store that embodied the brand. It’s really unique when it comes down to the colours we’ve chosen, the finishes and the details. It really equates to being an elevated experience and a place where customers can come in and share the same passion for the fashion trending products, sneakers, collectables, art, and anything in that realm. We’re hoping to use that space to become the main community hub in Toronto,” he said.

“For us, expansion is going to come more from introducing our private label, introducing our own product and incorporating those within the mix that complement the sneakers and streetwear very well. After Toronto, we’re always pondering about expansion but for us the expansion after Toronto is really going to come on our online, e-commerce.”

Benalia owns the business with Andrew Rusnac.

“It’s a funny story about how we met to start the brand. Since I was 16, I was kind of doing this without a storefront. Building my own clientele online. I would line up at every single sneaker release to collect pairs and I would also go to sneaker conventions in Toronto, Vancouver, all over Canada,” said Benalia in a previous Retail Insider story.

“We did a few deals online and then I met my partner as he was finishing school. He wanted to do something different. We both had a crazy passion for sneakers and realized we had a great opportunity to create a renowned brand. He took the next plane ticket to Montreal and stayed the week. In this time we plotted the brand concept and created a proper business plan. Next thing you know he moved to Montreal and we launched our company.”

“We are scaling at a rapid rate and we are beefing up our back end team. You’re going to really see the brand explode within this year.”

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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