Exhibit Store

Interview by Alan Ng & Jenkin Au
Words by Michael Ma
Photography by Jenkin Au

Exhibit is Main Street’s latest arsenal of boutiques, offering a unique range of brands. Street culture enthusiasts now have something one more selection on street wear in a limited Vancouver market. Headed by Nick Richardson, he brings a lot of experience and contacts to the game, allowing him to offer unique clothing. We caught up with Nick to have an interview with him, and here, he tells us about his brands, about how he got those brands, and what it’s like starting on Main Street.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m from Vancouver, I grew up skate boarding, snow boarding, doing a lot of things that guys in Vancouver do. I worked a long time in the skate boarding, snow boarding industry, running rather large stores doing distribution stuff like that. I just saw a market for the next step in clothing for guys who are just like me, growing up doing action sports; needing a place for them to bulk their style, something with that skate board shop look, but with the next step that the guys go to the Bay with. I just needed something small, a boutique.

How did you decide on the name Exhibit?

Finding the name seems to be the easiest thing; but actually doing it was by far the hardest part. We went through thousands of names, I mean I was up on the computer at 3 o’clock in the morning just plugging through names and Exhibit came up. And we drew it out, the definition really worked for what we’re doing, just like exhibiting yourself, and exhibiting what you’re doing.

Tell us about the brands you carry, and how they fit into your store theme.

We consider ourselves like a “Brotique”, which is something like a men’s boutique; so a lot of brands we do are sort of skate boarding, snow boarding fused brands that made a lot of life style type clothing and sort of push their t-shirts and jeans farther than just cut and sew. So brands like Lifetime Collective, is a Vancouver based brand that does everything from your regular jeans and t-shirts, to dress shirts and dress pants, shorts, everything that you could think of. Yea, so we just usually pick life style brands that we’re still kind of connected to that sort of action sport field and things like that.

You carry a lot of hard to find brands, so can you tell us a little more on how you manage to get these difficult to get brands?

Being in the industry for so long, you make a lot of relationships with people, and it really helped out for me cause I had a list of brands I wanted. I figured I could get only around 60% of the brands I go for; but we ended up getting around 95% of the brands we wanted to get. It was kind of just due to the past relationship with reps, so knowing the reps and knowing the distributors being around sort of in their same sort of fields, and socializing for years and years made it a lot easier to get some of the brands. Like Obey is one of my old boss’s brand manager in Canada, so one phone call to make sure there weren’t any stores in the neighborhood carrying the brand, and it worked out for us. I mean if you can find a location, and convince the brand that you’re a good suit for them, and there’s no reason why you’re not a good suit for them then it works out.

So you mentioned you got around 95% of what you wanted, so what was that missing 5%?

Vans, we tried to get Vans shoes. I wore Van shoes for like 10 years, I pretty much the only sports athletic shoes I wore. They sort of put a block on us cause there was another store in the neighborhood that had it. So that didn’t go through, but we ended up picking up ZigZags, Lifetime shoes and stuff like that. We didn’t really think about them until we saw them, and now they’re doing awesome for us.

Vancouver’s street culture scene is rather in its young stages, especially with the skate scene in general. So how does a store like Exhibit see the street culture scene in Vancouver?

Well for sure Vancouver’s street culture scene is behind, and Canada is behind; period. I think out of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal the west coast has a significant melting pot of different styles where we pull from everywhere, not just it’s a coastal thing. Not like somewhere like California with a certain ‘look’, so yea Vancouver has been very good because its so diverse, and has a multicultural city, but everyone pulls in different styles. It is behind like you say, but everyone is trying to seem like they are trying to catch up as quick as possible, and really trying to do their thing.

Now looking at it through a microscale, Downtown and Gastown has been pretty much taken care of in terms of the boutique areas, and now Mainstreet’s taking care of you. Which other areas do you think is lacking most?

Commercial drive, as we push further East; I think Burnaby has a lot of potential, into Richmond, South Vancouver. Its going to go from downtown and push out, I mean it got to the Westside pretty quick, and its slowly trickling this way. Everything seems to be pushing farther and farther out and I know there are places in the suburbs that are doing really good jobs, which are some stylish stores too.

SpeakingExhibit of stores like the small boutique like yours, its really important to find a perfect spot both for yourself and the community around it. So why did you feel that this was the perfect spot for you?

Well Mainstreet itself, I mean I’ve been hanging out in the area for more than 10 years cause one of my best friend lives just up the road from here. I bought my house just about 2 years ago on Fraser and 5th, so hanging out on Mainstreet was easy for me, and it was something that you could really see; like on the weekends you see a lot of people going shopping, or going to breakfast or socializing. It’s just a good up and coming area. I mean just living here for just 2 years, I’ve seen all the things that has changed so much and it just evolve and evolve every year. I mean Broadway and Main has the busiest hub in the area for people to have a lot of walk in traffic. It’s a good area where people can just find you and see you, without hearing from other people. When we saw this location, it looked like it needed a lot of work, which it did. We were sort of hesitant at first, but then realizing the exposure that we get for being on a corner, and having multiple windows made it a easy choice for us after we punched in all the numbers.

With all your different labels that you carry, have there been any that has not performed as well as you thought it would?

No, I mean everything moves in waves. I mean like in sales, there are brands that are doing really well and suddenly it just duck off; and then we see brands that aren’t doing well in months, and bang, bang, bang, their new stuff hits the store and every single piece disappears. So it just really following the waves of the brand, cause I mean brands reinvent themselves every season a little bit. It takes a little time for brands to reach people. We haven’t cut any brands out, that’s for sure. We’ve been just increasing our buys.

Many boutiques often dive into making their own brands, have you ever though about doing your own brand?

Yea, we’ve talked about it quite a bit, but I don’t know if I ever would do my own full out brand as in an Exhibit brand. I might do some shop tees for friend and families and just sort of advertising stuff, but to do an actual shop brand, it would probably be something done on the side, and displayed here but not necessarily with a logo about our brand. We’ll probably rebrand it to something else that uses the hub are for it.

Throughout the interview, you’ve used the term “We”, so are there more people behind Exhibit?

I own the company, the store itself. My wife helps out the store at times, and I got a long time friend that we call him the ambassador of the store that basically helps with the buying, he helps with the store, and the crew guys that work here. In the neighborhood, I got a couple of friends that owns restaurants down the road. I mean we help out each other, we send each other customers back and forth. It’s a small group, but it’s essentially myself, my wife, the ambassador, and a couple of my employees.

What do you have planned for Exhibit in the next 5 to 10 years?

Probably one in a different location, mainly a different location for women’s, maybe something catering to women using the same sort of brands. We’re in talks of doing little things here and there, but I want to keep those under wraps for now.

You mentioned a little about the women’s fashion, what is your view overall with women’s fashion in terms of their styles within the skate scene, and the snowboarding scene?

I get quite a few women customers in here. I think they’re doing a better job, I think they realize that market is slowly growing, especially the skate and the snow boarding industry for women. I mean the brands did not start to make women specific products until 8 to 10 years ago. What I see is when I was in the snow boarding industry, I saw a lot of brands coming up and doing really making a women’s specific look and making a push, pulling from women’s fashion and their styles and trying to make something specific for women. I think it’s going to be the same thing, having it become its own entity. The brands that we do carry, they do great with women’s stuff; like Obey and Lifetime does amazing clothing for them.

With all the different brands emerging in both Vancouver and around the world, what are the specifications for these different brands to have their stuff sold in your store?

We don’t have any specifications. We take everything as it comes, I mean we just take the ideas and roll out with it in our store. We get lots of people that drop off their stuff; we have catalogues on top of catalogues dropped off, but we sort of look for a specific field from our brand. Unless it sits in that area,

It may not be something that we could go with. I mean we’re small right now, and we’re really happy with the brands we have so to take away something that’s already working is not going to happen super quick, but as soon as something ‘Woahs’ you, you just got to jump on it super quick.

Within those catalogues, is it mostly international?

We get locals, we actually just picked up a small t-shirt line called 9O’clockGun. They’re all locally designed and produced, and they do small lines of Vancouver based images. There are lots of international stuff out there. I’ll probably hit the trade shows and see if there’s anything that jumps out at us, we’ll probably try to get our hands on them. We’re not adverse to picking new lines up and see what we can do with them.

What is HYPE?

HYPE is a feeling inside, when you see or get something you like. It could be music, or anything that makes you excited inside that makes you start moving. It could be anything, as I said like music, or clothes.