Creative shoe maker shines with its first retail location

Keen owner teamed with neighbouring store to help build success

At the first Keen Canada store customers can test how their new kicks will perform on the Beach’s boardwalk before even setting foot outdoors.

That’s thanks to a terrain track made of wood and stone, one of many features that attract people to the store owned by company president Pat Leeder.

And Leeder says he’s built his store with the environment in mind, reusing items in creative yet functional ways.

Display shoes at the Kingston Road and Victoria Park Avenue shop sit on vintage licence plates from various provinces instead of the typical plastic holders.

The walls are made from pieces of packing crates from the Keen factory in Brockville. A library ladder that runs the length of the store was scavenged from Etobicoke.

Old paint drums were converted into chairs, a door from someone’s garage became the cash desk, and a mechanic’s workbench is now the counter.

These features are part of Keen’s effort to incorporate social responsibility into its main focus, which is creating outdoor footwear that’s appropriate for city streets or mountain ranges.

“We have a saying that our playground is anywhere that’s outdoors,” Leeder says.

The Keen store, which opened May 7, got started with the help of Threads Lifestyle, a neighbouring outdoor clothing and gear shop that had stocked Keen shoes for eight years.

By the time Keen developed 400 products, they realized they needed their own store to showcase them all, Leeder says.

The company was looking for a helping hand in its first foray into Canadian retail, and Threads Lifestyle owner Steven Cross, extended it. Not only did he provide advice, but one of his staff became store manager.

Working together, Leeder and Cross say they’re using the Beach’s outdoorsy image to attract shoppers who are already making use of the area’s boardwalks and parks in their stores.

“I think it creates a critical mass,” Cross says. “It’ll be pretty hard not to come here if you’re an outdoor person.”

Leeder has lived in the Beach for 20 years and says he and his wife were initially attracted by the lifestyle. “We always thought it was the best part of Toronto,” he says.

About this article:

By: Caitlin Orr
Posted: Jun 13 2011 3:11 pm
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto