Retail Spotlight: Gerhard Supply
Whether you’re a resident of Toronto or planning a visit in the future, make sure you carve out some time to drop in at Gerhard Supply, located in Toronto’s Junction District. Gerhard Supply is a great one-stop-shop for men, with products ranging from casual sportswear and suiting, to accessories and personal grooming tools. Aesthetically, the shop has a downtown, boutique vibe, however, all pretentiousness and snobbery is left at the door. When you enter, expect a warm and enthusiastic welcome, and staff that are eager to offer their knowledge and expertise on the brands that they carry. Gerhard Supply proudly supports Canadian-made products, and often features work of local artists and designers in their window displays. Founding owner, Langton Willms, took some time to chat with us about the neighbourhood he’s located in, and the response he's had so far.
What's special about the Junction neighbourhood where your shop is located?
The Junction was a designated no-fun zone from 1904 to 2000. The men in the Junction couldn't hold their liquor, so they were cut off... for a century. Now we're overcompensating in a big way for all of those lost years. The new bar/food scene here is out of control. Despite that, the area remains a bit of a well kept secret, so you don't have to wait in line for your Eggs Benedict.
The main street and surrounding area is also gorgeous; grand old architecture, big trees and nice parks. The neighbourhood was originally built as a small rail town, outside of and distinct from Toronto, separated by farmland. The Junction has a real small town vibe to it, both in look and in feel. It's relaxed. It's familiar. It's comfortable.
Why did you choose this area, and how has the local response been so far?
I mean, in addition to the fact that it's just tonnes of fun and super attractive, the Junction is an interesting neighbourhood, economically. The area's rapid development in the past few years was driven by relatively affordable rents and an abundance of underused retail space. Creative professionals and the like who could no longer afford the rent or find a space on Queen Street West were setting their sights on the Junction in a big way. It's start-up central right now.
In short, this is one of the few neighbourhoods in Toronto where a start-up can still succeed. Rent is cheap, space is available, and the neighbourhood shops locally. The abundance of start-ups attracts the type of locavore clientele that businesses like mine need to succeed. People who shop in the Junction shop there for integrity. They want something with a story. Something that isn't mass produced, cheap and generic. Something that will last.
Gerhard Supply has been well received, I feel. We have very loyal supporters and I'm deeply grateful to each and every one of them. I wouldn't change a thing about our choice of location, given the chance.
Gerhard has just recently celebrated its second year anniversary. What is the most important retail lesson you've learned in your two years of operation?
Less is more.
As a sole proprietor, it's easy to lose focus, because every single thing that you want to have happen, can happen immediately. I spent all last year trying to slow down, step back and strip the store back down to its essential parts.
I shortened my list of designers and started going deeper into each of their collections. The physical store design has been pared-down, and operational procedures have been obsessively revisited to be made invisible...
Year 1 was all about, "what can we add?" Year 2 was all about, "what can we remove?" By the end of Year 3, Gerhard Supply will just be an empty room, with a neatly folded shirt on the floor.
What are some of your favourite small businesses in your area that you like to support?
Breakfast: The Beet
Lunch: Sorella (especially on Sundays when they've got the smoker going)
Dinner: Curry Twist. Seriously.
Bar: The Hole in the Wall
Visit Gerhard Supply at 2949 Dundas Street West in Toronto.